Wright R-3350-23 2200hp at 25,000 ft.
141 ft., 3 in.
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¡«wss test YB-17s were built in Wichita, KS, but they, too (as well as early production models), were plagued with engine problems and difficulties with all the new equipment (from remotely sighted and controlled gun turrets to cabin pressurization), electrical trouble and radar installations.
Airplane deliveries were hampered by delays of material and equipment from the greatest network of sub-contractors and suppliers ever set up for an airplane production program. To prevent delays on the production lines, the planes were rushed through incomplete and sent to modification centers for final installations and necessary changes, particularly to the still-troublesome R-3350 engines.
Getting the first B-29s into combat was also an unprecedented operation. Japan was beyond the range of even the B-29from U.S.-held bases in the Pacific, so several airfields were built by Chinese coolie labor in the vicinity of Chengtu, China, 1600 miles from the southern tip of Japan. The B-29s that used them were based in India but used the Chinese fields as points of departure for Japan. With no roads open for supply, all supplies (fuel, bombs, ammunition, spare engines, food, etc.) had to be air-lifted from India, 1,500 miles away, over the infamous "Hump" of the Himalaya Mountains. Each B-29 had to make several round trips to support one raid on Japan. Some B-29s were stripped of all military equipment and fitted with bomb-bay tanks, and they could ferry up to 4,000 gallons of fuel. These were facetiously called C-29s.
The first Asiatic B-29 raid was a 2,000-mile round trip from India to Bangkok, Thailand, on June 5,1944. This was reported by Radio
Tokyo as having been flown by B-24s. The first raid against Japan was over the steel works at Yawata. Sixty-eight B-29s took off from Chengtu on June 15, but, hindered by bad weather, only 47 reached and bombed their target. Despite the B-29's capacious bomb bays, each plane carried only 1 ton of bombs in a necessary trade-off between bomb load and fuel for range. Seven B-29s were lost on that first raid; none to Japanese action.
As supplies increased, attacks on Japan from China increased, but they ended late in 1944 when the Japanese-held Marianas Islands in the Western Pacific were captured, and B-29 bases were built there. The distance from there to Japan was only slightly less, but supplies could be delivered by ship and the B-29s could fly westward from the U.S., instead of eastward via Africa and India. Bomb loads didn't increase significantly at first, because of the fuel required to reach the bombing altitude of 30,000 feet that was necessary to elude fighters and flak, and to battle the terrific head winds. The first strike against Tokyo since the Doolittle raid of April 1942, with B-25s launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet, was made of Saipan on November 24, 1944, with over 100 B-29s.
After capture, Iwo Jima,which is halfway between Saipan and Japan, served as a safe haven for damaged B-29s and for those low on fuel, and it also provided a base for P-51 fighters that could now accompany the B-29s to Japan. With Japanese fighter opposition virtually eliminated, the B-29s could go in at a lower altitude and with bigger bomb loads. This was the beginning of the end. Incendiary bombs virtually wiped out whole cities until, on August 6 and 9, two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force a speedy end to the war.
During the war, some 118 B-29s were converted to long-range F-13 photo-reconnais-sance planes and used to select targets in Japan and evaluate bomb damage after raids. Their photos also helped those who planned the U.S. invasion of the Philippines.
B-29 Production—Be\men them, the four factories turned out 3,960 B-29s, with the last one delivered from Renton in May 1946. Over 5,000 B-29s still on order were cancelled after V-J Day.
B-29— Most B-29s were designated simply "B-29." The final models differed in detail from the early models, most notably in having four-gun upper forward turrets instead of two-gun turrets. Boeing built 1,634 B-29-BWs; Bell built 668 -BAs; and Martin built 536 -MOs.
B-29A—The B-29A had a new wing center section structure that added 1 foot to its wingspan. All 1,119 B-29A-BNs were built in Renton.
B-29B—A total of 311 Bell B-29s were modified in the factory and delivered as B-29Bs, stripped of all but tail guns. This cleaned-up version was as fast as Japanese fighters and could be attacked only from the rear. Also, the tail guns were aimed and fired by a new AN/APG-15B radar fire-control system. The weight saved went to additional bomb load.
B-29C— This aircraft was to have been a B-29 with improved R-3350 engines, but it was never built.
B-29D—The B-29D was a major improvement of the B-29, with 3,500hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engines, a 75ST aluminum structure instead of 24ST, thermal anti-icing instead of rubber boots, and a taller tail. Two hundred were cancelled after V-J Day, but the Army got 60 reinstated by saying that they were 75-percent-new airplanes designated "B-50." A total of 371 B-50s through TB-50H were built through March 1953.
remained the standby of the Strategic Air Command in the early, post-WW II years and served in the Korean War of 1950-53, with many of its logical targets declared off limits by political considerations. Its range was increased for global operations in 1948 by converting 92 B-29s to KB-29M hose tankers and another 74, supplemented by B-50As, to hose receiver B-29MRS. Later, 116 were converted to KB-29P boom tankers.
After Korea, a few B-29s continued to serve the Air Force in utility and training roles until 1960. One flyable B-29 survives today, and several are on view in museums.
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