The B-17 Flying Fortress was the primary long-range heavy bomber aircraft used by the Allies during World War II in Europe, dropping 780,000+ tons of bombs on German factories and cities.
In Blazing Angels, it's the only bomber aircraft usable by the player in certain missions.
On August 8, 1931, the US Army Air Corps issued a request for a heavy bomber to replace the Martin B-10 as its primary long-range strike aircraft. It was to have a maximum range of 2,000 miles, a top speed of at least 200 mph and capable of carrying a "useful bomb load." The four designs submitted by Boeing, Douglas and Martin were impressive indeed.
In 1932, the Army Air Corps proposed a competition for a $600 million, 200-unit contract for conceptual designs from the aviation giants of the day: Boeing, Martin and Douglas. At first, it seemed Boeing was in the lead with their YB-17 four-engine long-range heavy bomber, of which 65 had been ordered. Toward the end, however, Army Chief of Staff Malin Craig cancelled the order in favor of Douglas' B-18 Bolo twin-engine medium bomber, ordering 133 of them.
But the USAAC had been impressed by the performance of Boeing's design. Using a legal loophole, on January 17, 1936, the Air Corps ordered 13 YB-17s (formerly Y1B-17) for further evaluation. Boeing had incorporated several upgrades into the revised design, including more powerful Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone radial engines in place of the original Pratt & Whitney water-cooled motors. Twelve of the aircraft were delivered to the 2nd Bombardment Group in 1937 for operational development and flight tests, while the thirteenth was delivered to the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio, disassembly and study.
In 1938, the Army Air Corps approved the design, redesignated B-17B, for production and placed the effort under the authority of Boeing's lead engineers E. Gifford Emery and Edward Curtis Wells.
After approving it for production, the Army Air Corps ordered the first fifty aircraft to the 2nd and 15th Bombardment Groups to begin building squadrons. The effort still had its share of critics, who believed that the money and time being spent on the aircraft would be of better use elsewhere, such as finding a way to haul America out from the depths of the economic depression that had struck in October, 1929. Opposition waned as awareness of war in other parts of the world increased.
After the unprovoked surprise attack by Japan on the Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, all opposition vanished as the United States mobilized for war in a raging thirst for vengeance and the B-17 Flying Fortress was ordered into full production. Component were manufactured all over the country, but the aircraft were assembled at the Boeing factory in Seattle, Washington.
As early as March of 1942, dozens of the aircraft were being delivered to Great Britain each month. The majority of the aircraft were based in England, but many were sent to the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
Hundreds flew thousands of missions over France, the Low Countries and Germany, battering the Nazi defenses before and after the historic landings at Normandy.
- Maximum Speed (cruise, combat): 182 mph (293 kph); 287 mph (462 kph)
- Maximum Range (combat, nonstop): 970 miles (1,561 km); 2,000 miles (3,219 km)
- Service Ceiling: 35,600 feet (10,850 m)
- Weight (empty, loaded): 36,135 lbs (16,391 kg); 54,000 lbs (24,500 kg)
- Powerplant: 4 x Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone 1,200 hp turbocharged radials
- Dimensions (length, height, wingspan): 74'4" x 19'1" x 103'9"
- Crew: 12 (2 pilots, bombardier, radioman, 8 gunners)
- Armament: 15 x Browning M2 .50-caliber machine guns (G model), 12 x 500-pound high-explosive freefall bombs
- The B-17 carried a maximum load of 2,000 pounds of ordnance.
- The B-17 was well-named: It bristled with up to twelve Browning M2 .50-caliber machine guns in eight positions that covered all attack vectors.
- The B-17G was the only model that featured a chin turret, mounting two additional machine guns.
- The most vulnerable points on the B-17 were the nose, wings and tail.
- The average B-17 crewman stood 5'4" tall and weighed 165 pounds.
- Despite their heavy onboard armament, more B-17s were lost to enemy fighters and accidental friendly fire than anti-aircraft gunners.
- The B-17's original design featured teardrop-shaped "blisters" on its port and starboard flanks.
- A total of 12,731 B-17s were built between 1936 and 1945.