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Boeing B-29 Superfortress

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Used in both the Second World War and the Korean War the B-29 allowed the United States to attack targets on the Japanese mainland that had been out of reach. Although it is perhaps for the dropping of the world's first atomic bomb by the Enola Gay that the Boeing B-29 Superfortress is perhaps best remembered for.

Quick Facts
Boeing B-29 Superfortress side profile image
First flight
21st September 1942
Entered service
8th May 1944
Total built

Front view
B-29 Superfortress front view photo
Side view
Sorry, no view photo available
Rear view
B-29 Superfortress rear view photo

With Europe in the midst of war the issue of long-range bombers was discussed by the planners of the United States Army Air Corps with the aircraft potentially being required to operate over the Pacific Ocean. This lead to General Henry Harley 'Hap' Arnold getting the very long-range project started during January 1940 then on the 29th five United States aircraft companies had proposals sent to them. Four of the companies responded and each project given its own designation: XB-29 Boeing, XB-30 Lockheed, XB-31 Douglas, XB-32 Consolidated.

Although both Douglas and Lockheed later withdrew their submissions. This left Boeing's XB-29 and Consolidated XB-32 Dominator designs to be compared and an initial order of two prototypes was placed on the 6th September 1940, this was later increased to three.

The 7th September 1942 saw the XB-32 Dominator take to the skies first, beating Boeing's design by fourteen days, however Boeing had already received orders for their aircraft totalling over 1,500 before their prototype flew. So whilst the XB-32 required more development Boeing's XB-29 design was an updated version of their model 341 design which in itself was a continuation of various improvements in the design of their B-17 Flying Fortress, allowing them to convince the United States Army Air Corps that production aircraft would be available in a couple of years.

With the prototypes now produced and flying, fourteen service test aircraft designated YB-29 were ordered. The 1st June 1943 would see the 58th Very Heavy Bombardment Wing formed in anticipation of the first flight of these aircraft which would take place on the 26th June 1943. These would be followed in the autumn by production deliveries of the Superfortress to the 58th Very Heavy Bombardment Wing so they could begin preparing for operational service with the type.

Whilst the B-29 had been designed to operate in the Pacific it had been agreed by the Allies that the aim would be for the war in Europe to be ended first. So this would be the Superfortresses most likely destination. But as 1943 drew to a close it was felt that the B-29 could be more effectively used in the Far East.

The new aircraft would initially operate from four airfields in China, this was due to no island bases available to accommodate the B-29, and these were all completed by the 10th May 1944. Although prior to this the Twentieth Air Force had been formed on the 4th April 1944 to use the B-29 and twenty days later on the 24th the first aircraft arrived at Kwanghan Airfield, China. Taking off from these bases on the 15th June 1944 seventy seven B-29s of XX Bomber Command made the types first attack on the mainland of Japan when they targeted the Imperial Iron and Steel works at Yawata. However the B-29 was hampered by the many problems of operating from their Chinese bases and no concentrated campaign could be launched. It wouldn't be until the capture of the Mariana Islands and the establishment of bases on Saipan, Guam and Tinian that the B-29 could be deployed in larger numbers.

It will surely be for the dropping of the atomic bomb that the B-29 will be best remembered for when two Superfortresses of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron carried out the task. The Enola Gay would drop the first on Hiroshima, Japan on the 6th August 1945 followed by Nagasaki, Japan on the 9th August 1945 when Bock's Car dropped the second, shortly after these events the Second World War (1939 - 1945) came to an end.

By the time production ended in May 1946 3,970 B-29s had been built and would remain in service with the United States Army Air Corps and would see action during the Korean War (1950 - 1953). A number of B-29s would serve with the Royal Air Force in Bomber Command, on loan, and would be known as Washington B.Is.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
B-29 358 mph 3,250 miles 31,850 ft ten/eleven 0.50-in machine-guns
one 20mm cannon
20,000lb bombs
B-29 side profile image
B-29A 357 mph 4,100 miles 33,600 ft tweleve 0.50-in machine-guns
one 20mm cannon
20,000lb bombs
B-29B 364 mph 4,200 miles 32,000 ft twelve 0.50-in machine-guns
20,000lb bombs
B-29C B-29 to be powered by improved Wright R-3350 engines, none built.
B-29D Became the Boeing B-50 Superfortress.
XB-29E Fire control test aircraft.
XB-29F Six converted B-29s used as cold weather test aircraft.
XB-29G Jet engine test aircraft.
XB-29H Sole B-29A modified as a armament test aircraft.
XB-29J Six aircraft used to test improved engines and propellers.
KB-29M Hose type refueling aircraft.
B-29L Receiver aircraft for KB-29M.
KB-29P Boom-type receiver aircraft.
EB-29 Two x plane carriers. One for XL and one XF-85.
SB-29 Converted for rescue use.
WB-29 Converted for use as weather reconnaissance.
B-29AEW Three aircraft used as test beds for Airbourne Early Warning.


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See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

B-29A Imperial War Museum, Duxford

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