Boeing B-17F “Flying Fortress, 303 BG “Hell’ Angels”, 8th USAAF (Hasegawa)

TYPE: Heavy bomber


: Four Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone supercharged radial engines, rated at 1,200 hp each


COMMENT: The Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” was a four-engine heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry (prototype Model 299, XB-17) outperformed both competitors and exceeded the air corps’ performance specifications. Although Boeing lost the contract (to the Douglas B-18 “Bolo”) because the prototype crashed, the air corps ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 “Flying Fortress” evolved through numerous design advances becoming the third-most produced bomber of all time, behind the American four-engined Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” and the German multirole, twin-engined Junkers Ju 88.
On 8 August 1934, the USAAC tendered a proposal for a multiengine bomber to replace the Martin B-10. The Air Corps was looking for a bomber capable of reinforcing the air forces in Hawaii, Panama, and Alaska. Requirements were for it to carry a “useful bombload” at an altitude of 10,000 ft, a range of 2,000 mi and a top speed of at least 250 mph was desired.
The prototype XB-17, with the Boeing factory designation of Model 299, was built at Boeing’s own expense. It combined features of the company’s experimental XB-15 bomber and Model 247 transport. The first flight of the Model 299 was on  July 1935 and on 20 August 1935, the prototype flew from Seattle to Wright Field in nine hours and three minutes with an average cruising speed of 252 miles per hour, much faster than the competition.
The USAAC had been impressed by the prototype’s performance, and on January 1936, through a legal loophole, the air corps ordered 13 YB-17s (designated Y1B-17 after November 1936 to denote its special F-1 funding) for service testing.
The YB-17 incorporated a number of significant changes from the Model 299, including more powerful Wright R-1820-39 Cyclone engines. Although the prototype was company-owned and never received a military serial (the B-17 designation itself did not appear officially until January 1936, nearly three months after the prototype crashed), the term “XB-17” was retroactively applied to the airframe and has entered the lexicon to describe the first “Flying Fortress”.
Opposition to the air corps’ ambitions for the acquisition of more B-17s faded, and in late 1937, 10 more aircraft designated B-17B were ordered to equip two bombardment groups, one on each U.S. coast. Improved with larger flaps and rudder and a well-framed, 10-panel plexiglas nose, the B-17Bs were delivered in five small batches between July 1939 and March 1940. In July 1940, an order for 512 B-17s was issued, but at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, fewer than 200 were in service with the army.
The aircraft went through several alterations in each of its design stages and variants. Of the 13 YB-17s ordered for service testing, 12 were used by the 2nd Bomb Group of Langley Field, Virginia, to develop heavy bombing techniques, and the 13th was used for flight testing at the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio. Experiments on this aircraft led to the use of a quartet of General Electric turbo-superchargers which would become standard on the B-17 line
As the production line developed, Boeing engineers continued to improve upon the basic design. To enhance performance at slower speeds, the B-17B was altered to include larger rudders and flaps. The B-17C changed from three bulged, oval-shaped machine gun blisters to two flush, oval-shaped machine gun window openings, and on the lower fuselage, a single “bathtub” machine gun gondola housing, which resembled the similarly configured and located ventral defensive emplacement on the German Heinkel He 111P-series medium bomber.
While models A through D of the B-17 were designed defensively, the large-tailed B-17E was the first model primarily focused on offensive warfare. The B-17E was an extensive revision of the Model 299 design: The fuselage was extended by 10 ft; a much larger rear fuselage, vertical tailfin, rudder, and horizontal stabilizer were added to the design; a gunner’s position was added in the new tail; the nose (especially the bombardier’s well-framed, 10-panel nose glazing) remained relatively the same as the earlier B through D versions had, but with the addition of a Sperry electrically powered manned dorsal gun turret just behind the cockpit, and the similarly powered Sperry-built manned ventral ball turret just aft of the bomb bay. The B-17’s turbocharged Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9 engines were upgraded to increasingly more powerful versions of the same power plants multiple times throughout its production, and similarly, the number of machine gun emplacement locations was increased to enhance the aircraft’s combat effectiveness.
In April 1942, the B-17F was introduced onto the production lines, and outwardly this variant differed from the B-17E only in having an extended Plexiglas nose which was frameless except for the optically flat bomb-aiming panel, paddle-blade airscrews for maximum operating performance, extra fuel cells, improvements of the bomb stowage, brake system, communications equipment and oxygen system. As the cross weight was increased, the undercarriage was strengthened.
Owing to the constant modifications being applied to aircraft on the production lines and the immense scale of production orders, a system of “Block Designations” was instituted.  Thus, the first Boeing-built B-17F Fortress became B-17F-1-BO, and all aircraft in this production block were identical insofar as equipment and installations were concerned. Blocks B-17F-5-BO, -10-BO, etc., followed, the intervening number being left to indicate subsequent changes made at modification centres. Production of the B-17F continued for 15 months, during which 2,300 were built by Boeing, 600 by Douglas (suffix DL) and 500 by Locked Vega (suffix VE). The final production blocks of the B-17F from Douglas’ plants did, however, adopt the Bendix “chin turret” with two machine guns, giving them a much-improved forward defense capability.
The B-17F variants were the primary versions flying for the Eighth Air Force to face the Germans in 1943. The maximum bomb load of the first B-17F was 4.350 kg, but on typical missions to Germany, Eighth Air Force Fortresses carried 1.800- 2.270 kg over operating ranges averaging 1,400 miles. Beyond these distances, the bomb load fell rapidly, so that the effective combat radius of B-17F was about a maximum of 800 miles. Later modifications already referred to increase the fuel capacity as well as bomb load and by that the USAAF was enabled to build up an immense striking force in the European Theatre of Operations (Ref.: 4, 24).

Arado Ar 234B-2 “Blitz” (“Lightning”), (9/KG 76), (Dragon)

TYPE: Fast medium bomber


POWER PLANT: Two Junkers Jumo 004B-1 turbojet engines, rated at 900 kp each

PERFORMANCE: 461 mph at 20,000 ft

COMMENT: In late 1940, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, Reich Air Ministry), offered a tender for a jet-powered high-speed reconnaissance aircraft with a range of 1,340 mi. Arado was the only company to respond, offering their E.370 project, a high-wing conventional-looking design with a Junkers Jumo 004 tubojet engine under each wing.
Arado estimated a maximum speed of 480 mph at 20,000 ft, an operating altitude of 36,000 ft and a range of 1,240 mi. The range was short of the RLM request, but they liked the design and ordered two prototypes as the Arado Ar 234. These were largely complete before the end of 1941, but the Jumo 004 engines were not ready, and would not be ready until February 1943. When they did arrive they were considered unreliable by Junkers for in-flight use and were cleared for static and taxi tests only. Flight-qualified engines were finally delivered, and the first prototype, the Ar 234 V1 made its first flight on July 1943 at Rheine Airfield.
By September 1943, four prototypes were flying and four more prototypes under construction. The sixth and eighth aircraft of the series were powered with four BMW 003 turbojet engines instead of two Jumo 004s, the sixth having four engines housed in individual nacelles and the eighth flown with two pairs of BMW 003s installed within “twinned” nacelles underneath either wing. These were the first four-engine jet aircraft to fly.
The projected weight for the aircraft was approximately 8 tonnes. To reduce the weight of the aircraft and maximize the internal fuel the eight prototype aircraft were fitted with the original arrangement of trolley-and-skid landing gear, intended for the planned operational, but never-produced Arado Ar 234A version.
Arado did not use the typical retractable landing gear. Instead, the aircraft was to take off from a jettisonable three-wheeled, tricycle gear-style trolley and land on three retractable skids, one under the central section of the fuselage, and one under each engine nacelle.
The RLM had already seen the promise of the design and in July 1943 had asked Arado to supply two prototypes of a “Schnellbomber” (“Fast bomber”) version as the Arado Ar 234B. Since the original skid-equipped Ar 234A’s fuselage design was very slender and filled with fuel tanks, there was no room for an internal bomb bay and the bombload had to be carried on external racks.
Since the cockpit was directly in front of the fuselage, the pilot had no direct view to the rear, so the guns were aimed through a periscope, derived from the type used on German World War II tanks, mounted on the cockpit roof. The Ar 234B version was modified to have fully retractable tricycle landing gear, with the mid-fuselage very slightly widened to accommodate the forward-retracting main gear units, the nose gear retracting rearwards. The first twin-Jumo 004 powered prototype Ar 234B (V 7) flew on 10 March 1944 for the first time and made history on 2 August 1944 as the first jet aircraft ever to fly a reconnaissance mission.
Production B-series aircraft  were slightly wider at mid-fuselage to house the main landing gear, with a central fuel tank present (the middle one of a trio of fuel tanks) in the mid-fuselage location forward tank, central and an aft. Under tests with maximum bombload consisting of three SC 500 bomb, the Ar 234 V9 aircraft could reach 418 mph at 16,000 ft. This was still better than any bomber the Luftwaffe had at the time, and made it the only bomber with any hope of surviving the massive Allied air forces. The normal bombload consisted of two 500 kg bombs suspended from the engines or one large 1,000 kg bomb semi-recessed in the underside of the fuselage with maximum bombload being 1,500 kg. In case the full bomb load was to be deployed on an Ar 234B for an operational sortie, fuel had to be reduced and two Walter HWK 109-500A-1 “Starthilfe” (Take-off assistance) liquid fuel jettisonable JATO rocket pods delivering 500kp thrust each were fixed under each wing.
Production lines were already being set up, and 20 Arado Ar 234B-0 pre-production aircraft were delivered by the end of June 1943. Later production was slow, as the Arado plants were given the simultaneous tasks of producing aircraft from other bombed-out factories hit during the USAAF’s “Big Week”, and the ongoing license-building and nascent phasing-out of Heinkel’s heavy He 177A bomber, even as the Arado firm was intended to be the sole subcontractor for the Heinkel He 177B (He 277) series strategic bomber, meant to start construction at Arado as early as October 1944. Meanwhile, several of the Ar 234 prototypes – including a few of the surviving six twin-engine Jumo 004-powered “trolley-and-skids” Ar 234A-series prototypes – were sent forward in the reconnaissance role. In most cases, it appears they were never even detected, cruising at about 460 mph at over 29,900 ft, with the seventh prototype achieving the first-ever wartime reconnaissance mission over the United Kingdom by a Luftwaffe-used jet aircraft.
The few 234Bs entered service in autumn and impressed their pilots. They were fairly fast and completely aerobatic. The long takeoff runs led to several accidents; a search for a solution led to improved training as well as the use of two jettisonable RATO units. The Jumo 004 engines were always the real problem; they suffered constant flameouts and required overhaul or replacement after about 10 hours of operation.
The most notable use of the Arado Ar 234 in the bomber role was the attempt to destroy the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen. The aircraft continued to fight in a scattered fashion until Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945. Some were shot down in air combat, destroyed by flak, or “bounced” by Allied fighters during takeoff or on the landing approach, as was already happening to Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters. Mostly the remaining aircraft sat on the airfields awaiting fuel that never arrived.
Overall from mid-1944 until the end of the war a total of 210 aircraft were built. In February 1945, production was switched to the Arado Ar 234C variant. It was hoped that by November 1945 production would reach 500 per month. Only a few of this four engine aircraft were built before Germany finally collapsed (Ref.: 24).

Messerschmitt Me 262 HG III/ Concept 3 (Unicraft Models, Resin)

TYPE: High-speed test aircraft. Project


POWER PLANT: Two Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011 turbojet engines, rated at 1,300 kp thrust each

PERFORMANCE: High subsonic speed, estimated

COMMENT: In early 1941 several high speed versions of the basic Messerschmitt Me 262 were designed on the drawing board. The first of these “Hochgeschwindigkeitsjäger” (HG), (High-speed fighter) was the Messerschmitt Me 262 V9, unofficially called HG I. This aircraft featured modified wing leading edges of the inner wing section, swept angles of stabilizers, and a “Rennkabine” (Racing canopy), shallow, low-drag cockpit canopy and windscreen with low profile.
Other two projects were created following this way: The Me 262 HG II called for an outboard wing of increased chord and an improved air intake and engine installation, and finally  the Me 262 HG III, which was the final stage of development. It required more radical modifications, as a new 45 degree swept wing with engines housed in the wing roots. Three variants of the Me 262 HG III are known correspond to the original layout.
Entwurf 1” (Concept 1) had a the original tail plane of the Me 262, “Entwurf 2” (Concept 2) had a butterfly-type tail plane, and “Entwurf 3” (Concept 3) together with various subtypes was considerably altered in the fuselage area, where the cockpit was relocated at the rear and formed a part of the empennage group. The swept back stabilizers were located behind the cockpit. This Messerschmitt Me 262 HG III/ Concept 3 attained a very high state of fighter technology, which in the post-war period was the only realized abroad after a passage of several years.