Category Archives: Heavy Bomber

Heavy Bomber

Boeing B-17G “Flying Fortress”, “Priority Gal”, 486 BG, 8th USAAF, (Hasegawa Models)

TYPE: Heavy bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of ten

POWER PLANT: Four Wright R-1820-97 “Cyclone” turbo-supercharged radial engines, rated at 1,200 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 300 mph at 30,000 ft

COMMENT: The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). 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 four-engine Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the multirole, twin-engine Junkers Ju 88,
The Boeing B-17 began operations in World War II with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1941, and in the Southwest Pacific with the U.S. Army. In July 1942, the first USAAF Boeing B-17Fs were sent to England to join the Eighth Air Force. Later that year, two groups moved to Algeria to join Twelfth Air Force for operations in North Africa. The B-17Fs were primarily involved in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign against German targets ranging from U-boat pens, docks, warehouses, and airfields to industrial targets such as aircraft factories. In the campaign against German aircraft forces in preparation for the invasion of France, B-17 and B-24 raids were directed against German aircraft production while their presence drew the Luftwaffe fighters into battle with Allied fighters.
Soon, Boeing B-17Fs proved to be unsuitable for combat use over Europe. The defense expected from bombers operating in close formation alone did not prove effective and the bombers needed fighter escorts to operate successfully. Especially the head-on attacks of German fighters were dangerous, To improve defense a modification in form of a power-operated Bendix “chin” turret mounting two 0.5-in. machine guns was introduced in the last production model, the Boeing B-17G.  With the two “cheek” guns and the “chin” turret the protection against incoming fighters was increased enormously. In order to improve the field of fire to the rear a so-called “Cheyenne” tail gun mounting was fitted bringing the total number of guns from seven (B-17F) to 13 (B-17G). Incorporating all changes made to its predecessor, in total 8,680 B-17Gs were built, the last (by Lockheed) on July1945.
During World War II, the B-17 equipped 32 overseas combat groups, inventory peaking in August 1944 at 4,574 USAAF aircraft worldwide (Ref.: 24).
The aircraft shown here belonged to the 486th Bombardment Group (H), 832BS (Bombardment Squadron) stationed at Sudbury, UK. All B-17Gs were in natural metal. Group markings: W in square. In late 1944 red and blue bands forming chevron were painted on wing with blue band towards tip. From January 1945 wing tips and complete tail section painted yellow and three parallel bands of yellow round rear fuselage. In place nose bands and aircraft letter on fuselage (forward national insignia) in squadron color: 832BS in yellow, 833BS in medium blue, 834BS in red, and 835BS in bright green (Ref.: 2).

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

TYPE: Heavy bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of ten


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

PERFORMANCE: 287 mph

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).

Consolidated B-24D “Liberator” “Striped Ass”, 466th BG (H), 8th USAAF, (Airfix Models)

TYPE: Heavy bomber, Assembly ship

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of four

POWER PLANT: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp radial engines, rated at 1,200 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 303 mph at 25,000 ft

COMMENT: The Consolidated B-24 “Liberator was a heavy long-range bomber of the USAAF during WW II and large aircraft for its day. It had a wing span of 110 feet and a gross weight of more than 30 tons. Powered by four 1,200 hp radial engines, it had a maximum fuel capacity of 2,814 US gallons and the bomb load varied from 2,000 to 4,000 kp depending on the distance of the target to be attacked. The crew varied from eight to 10 men, five or six of whom acted as gunners, manning the 10 machine guns usually carried for defence.
The operating technique with these heavy bombers was, after take-off, to assemble large formations of from 20 to 40 aircraft while climbing to operational altitude of 20,000 to 25,000 feet. This was coordinated by means of “Assembly Ships” (or “Formation Ships”) specially fitted to aid assembly of individual group formations. They were equipped with signal lighting, provision for quantity discharge of pyrotechnics, and were painted with distinctive group-specific high-contrast patterns of stripes, checkers or polka dots to enable easy recognition by their flock of bombers. The aircraft used in most cases were veteran B-24Ds. All armament and armor was removed and arrangements for signal lighting varied from group to group, but generally consisted of white flashing lamps on both sides of the fuselage arranged to form the identification letter of the group. Such an assembly was despatched from a single airfield and joined with other formations to form a division column of perhaps 500 to 600 bombers.
The 446th Bombardment Group (H) with Component Squadrons 784th, 785th, 786th and 787th Bombardment Squadron (H) was activated on 1 Aug. 1943 at Alamogordo AAFd. NM. The training for combat commenced at Kearns Fd. Utah end Aug. 43, remaining there until Nov, 43, when the group moved back to Alamogordo AAFd, NM. In early Feb. 44 the group moved to Topeka AAFd, Kan and after a week’s stay began movement to the UK. Here the group was stationed at Attlebridge, Norfolk, for the last year of the war in Europe.
Combat aircraft were Consolidated B-24H, B-24J, B-24L and B-24M. In total the group flew 232 missions in the course of the year against strategic objectives like U-boat installations in Kiel, ball bearing works in Berlin, aircraft factories in Munich and oil refineries in Hamburg. Remarkably, the 785th Bomb Squadron flew 55 consecutive missions without loss. The aircraft shown here is the assembly ship of the 446th Bombardment Group. It’s a veteran Consolidated B-24D named “Striped Ass” (Ref: 2).

Notice: Identification markings of this aircraft are mostly hand-made. After airbrushing the surface with different aluminum-silver shading red stripes are applied according to the original. For this I used microthin precision slit tape, Bishop Graphics. Inc., Westlake Village, Ca. This is self-adhesive, in red color, extreme thin and easy to apply. Unfortunately transparent it needed to be painted stripe by stripe before being applied.

Consolidated B-24D”Liberator”, “Green Dragon”, 389th BG (H), 8th USAAF (Matchbox)

TYPE: Heavy long-range bomber, in service as Assembly ship

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of five to six

POWER PLANT: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-35 turbocharged “Twin-Wasp” radial engines, rated at 1.200 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 290 mph

COMMENT: In February 1944, the 2nd Division of the Eight Army Air Force in Europe authorized the use of “Assembly Ships” (or “Formation Ships”) specially fitted to aid assembly of individual group formations. They were equipped with signal lighting, provision for quantity discharge of pyrotechnics, and were painted with distinctive group-specific high-contrast patterns of stripes, checkers or polka dots to enable easy recognition by their flock of bombers. The aircraft used in the first allocation were B-24Ds retired by the 44th, 93rd and 389th Groups. Arrangements for signal lighting varied from group to group, but generally consisted of white flashing lamps on both sides of the fuselage arranged to form the identification letter of the group. All armament and armor was removed and in some cases the tail turret. In the B-24Hs used for this purpose, the nose turret was removed and replaced by a “carpetbagger” type nose. Following incidents when flare guns were accidentally discharged inside the rear fuselage, some assembly (formation) ships had pyrotechnic guns fixed through the fuselage sides. As these aircraft normally returned to base once a formation had been established, a skeleton crew of two pilots, navigator, radio operator and one or two flare discharge operators were carried. In some groups an observer officer flew in the tail position to monitor the formation. These aircraft became known as „”Judas goats“ (Ref: 24).
The Consolidated B-24D “Liberator”, 41-23683 “Green Dragon” shown here is an assembly (formation-) ship of the 458th Bombardment Group (H) “The Sky Scorpions”, 8th USAAF, stationed at Hethel, UK from 1943 to 1945 (Ref.: 2)

Consolidated B-24D “Liberator” “The Little Gramper”, 491st BG (H) “The Ringmasters”, 8th USAAF (Airfix)

TYPE: Heavy long-range bomber, in service as Assembly ship

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of four

POWER PLANT: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp radial engines, rated at 1,200 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 303 mph at 25,000 ft

COMMENT: The Consolidated B-24D “Liberator” was the first variant to be qualified for combat. Under the original Production Pool plan, Consolidated/San Diego was the prime manufacturer, supplying components to Fort Worth and Douglas/Tulsa for assembly. In May, 1942 the first of 2,738 B-24D’s rolled off the assembly lines.
Due to rapidly changing needs, especially for defensive armament, there were many variations within the B-24D model, these differences identified by “production blocks” (e.g B-24D-70-CO). Nevertheless, B-24D’s have been very successful in the first years of bombing offensive in the European theater but later are replaced by B-24H and B-24J. These variants had more powerful engines and better defensive armament. Some bombardment groups used phased-out B-24Ds as assembly (formation) ships until the end of the hostilities. The B-24D Assembly (Formation) Ship “The Little Gramper” shown here belonged to the 491th Bombardment Group (H) „The Ringmasters“, stationed at North Pickenham. (Ref. 2)

NOTE: This model is not the Hasegawa kit. It is an Airfix kit I built many years ago. All is hand-painted direct on the model. Polka dots are used as mentioned with the Consolidated B-24J Assembly Ship of the 458th Bombardment Group (H)

Consolidated B-24H “Liberator” “The Spotted Ass Ape”, 458th BG (H), 8th USAAF (Airfix)

TYPE: Heavy long-range bomber, in service as Assembly ship

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of four

POWER PLANT:  4 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp, rated at 1,200 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 290 mph at 18.482 ft

COMMENT: The Consolidated  B-24 “Liberator” was a four-engine, heavy long-range bomber designed by the Consolidated Aircraft Company in the late 1930s. For that time it was a modern design compared with its main competitor, the better-known Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress”.  The first flight took place on December, 29th, 1939. The “Liberator” had a higher top speed, greater range, and a heavier bomb load than its rival. On the other hand the “Liberator” was more difficult to fly, with heavy control forces and poor formation-flying characteristics. Nevertheless, the B-24 provided excellent service in a variety of roles thanks to its large bomb load and long range and was used in the European as well as the Pacific campaign. When the production ended in 1945 more than 18.480 aircraft have been built, more than of all other bombers during WWII. (Ref.: 4)
The Consolidated B-24H Liberator shown here is an assembly (formation-) ship “The Spotted Ass Ape” of the 458th  Bombardment Group (H), 8th USAAF, stationed at Horsham St Faith, England. (Ref.: 2)

NOTE: This aircraft is hand-painted direct onto the models surface, except the black dots. For these Polka (donut) dots I used Bishop precut tape shapes, solid donut pads, Bishop Graphics. Inc., Westlake Village, Ca 91359 U.S.A. These are self-adhesive, extreme thin, in black, and easy to apply. More work is required to red and yellow Polka dots. Here I used the solid donut pads from the same company, but in red. Unfortunately, these are transparent. So they need to be painted dot by dot before being applied.

Consolidated B-32 “Dominator” (Anigrand, Resin)

TYPE: Heavy bomber

ACCOMMODATION:  Crew of ten

POWER PLANT: Four Wright R-3350-23A radial engines, rated at 2,200 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 357 mph at 30,000 ft

COMMENT: The Consolidated B-32 “Dominator” was a heavy bomber made for the USAAF  during WWII, and had the distinction of being the last Allied aircraft to be engaged in combat during World War II. It was developed in parallel with the Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” as a fallback design should the B-29 prove unsuccessful. The design on which Consolidated based its proposal was similar to the Consolidated B-24 “Liberator”. Like the B-24 it was originally designed with twin fins and a large Davis-type wing, but with a longer, rounder fuselage and a rounded nose. The aircraft was designed to be pressurized, and have remote-controlled retractable gun turrets with fourteen .50 in machine guns. The turrets were remotely controlled from periscopic sights in aiming stations inside the aircraft. The sights were coordinated by a sophisticated analog computer system. The inboard propellers’ pitch could be reversed to shorten the landing roll or to roll back in ground maneuvers. The first prototype made its maiden flight on 7 September 1942. In 1943, the initial contract was signed for 300 B-32 but development problems continued. In order to resolve stability problems a B-29 style tail was fitted to the aircraft after its 25th flight. But this did not resolve the problem and a Consolidated-designed 19.5 ft vertical tail was added and first flown on the third XB-32 on 3 November 1943. By 1944 testing of the three prototypes permitted the USAAF to place orders for over 1,500 B-32s. The first production aircraft was delivered on 19 September 1944, by which time the B-29 was in full combat in the Pacific Area of Action. Beginning on 27 January 1945, 40 B-32A-5, -10 and -15 aircraft were delivered as unarmed TB-32-CF crew trainers. The B-32 only reached units in the Pacific Area during mid-1945, and subsequently only saw limited combat operations against Japanese homeland  before the end of the war. Most of the extant orders of the B-32 were cancelled shortly thereafter and only 118 B-32 airframes of all types were built (Ref.: 23).