Boeing B-29 Superfortress
The major production version of the
Superfortress was the B-29, 2513 of which were built. 1620 of them were built by Boeing at its Wichita, Kansas plant, 536
by Martin at its Omaha, Nebraska plant, and 357 by Bell at its plant in Marietta, Georgia. Including the B-29a and b models,
about 3,900 were built. (Note: Z Square 7, 42-63486, was built
by Bell at the Marietta, Georgia plant.)
Only the very early Wichita-built models were delivered in olive
drab and grey camouflage paint, with the remainder being delivered unpainted.
The first production B-29s began to roll off the production lines
at Boeing-Wichita in September of 1943. The first B-29s appeared on the production lines at Bell-Atlanta (Marietta) in February
of 1944. The first Martin-Omaha B-29 was delivered in mid-1944. The new Boeing plant at Renton built only the B-29A version.
The crew of the B-29 was typically eleven, comprising pilot,
copilot, bombardier, navigator, flight engineer, radio operator, radar operator, central fire control gunner, left side gunner,
right side gunner and tail gunner. The first six crewmen were housed in the forward pressurized cabin. The next four were
housed in the rear pressurized cabin. The tail gunner was in a separate pressurized compartment in the tail.
Fuel was carried in fourteen outer-wing, eight inner-wing, and
four bomb bay tanks, giving a maximum capacity of 8,168 gallons. An early modification added four tanks in the wing center
section, bringing total fuel capacity to 9,438 gallons.
The early models of the B-29 carried the Philco AN/APN-4 Loran
(LOng RANge) constant-beam navigation aid. It was replaced by the more sophisticated RCA AN/APN-9 system later in World War
The B-29 carried an AN/APQ-13 radar bombing/navigational aid
set. This set was developed jointly by the Bell Telephone Laboratories and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation
Laboratory. It was manufactured by Western Electric, which was in those days the manufacturing arm of the Bell System. The
radar antenna for this unit was housed inside a retractable 30-inch hemispherical radome located between the bomb bays and
protruding below the fuselage a couple of feet when extended. Later in the war, the AN/APQ-7 Eagle radar unit was used. The
Eagle antenna was mounted in a wing-shaped housing installed underneath the forward section of the fuselage. The unit was
also devised by Bell Labs and MIT, and was manufactured by Western Electric.
Early combat experience indicated that the B-29 needed more protection
against fighter attacks coming from the front. The forward dorsal turret armament was increased to four 0.50-inch machine
guns on Boeing-Wichita production lines. Bell-Atlanta introduced this innovation and all Martin-built B-29s had four guns
in the top turret from the beginning.
The trajectory of the shells fired from the 20-mm
cannon in the tail was completely different from that of the bullets from the 0.50-inch machine guns, which made aiming difficult
in combat conditions. Consequently, the 20-mm cannon was deleted from the tail position.
Specification of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress:
R-3350-23 Duplex Cyclone eighteen-cylinder air-cooled radial engines each with two General Electric turbosuperchargers, delivering
2,200 hp for takeoff and having a war emergency rating of 2,300 hp at 25,000 feet.
357 mph at 30,000 feet, 306 mph at sea level. Maximum continuous cruising speed 342 mph at 30,000 feet. Economical cruising
speed 220 mph at 25,000 feet. Initial climb rate 900 feet per minute at combat weight. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be
attained in 38 minutes. Service ceiling 33,600 feet. Maximum range was 3250 miles at 25,000 feet with 5,000 pound bomb load.
Practical operational radius was 1,600-1,800 miles. Maximum ferry range was 5,600 miles, rising to 6,000 miles with the extra
empty, normal loaded 120,000 pounds, maximum overload 135,000 pounds.
feet 3 inches, length 99 feet 0 inches, height 27 feet 9 inches, wing area 1,736 square feet.
machine guns in four remotely-controlled turrets (two above and two below the fuselage) and in the tail, each with 1000 rounds
of ammunition. In addition, early production blocks had a single rearward-firing 20-mm M2 Type B cannon with 100 rounds in
the tail position. Later, two more guns were provided for the forward top turret. Maximum internal short-range, low-altitude
bomb load was 20,000 pounds. A load of 5000 pounds of bombs could be carried over a 1600-mile radius at high altitude. A load
of 12,000 pounds of bombs could be carried over a 1600-mile radius at medium altitude.
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