Inside a Flying Fortress
Look inside one of the only surviving B-17Gs with a combat record.
- By Roger Connor and Christopher Moore. Photographs by Eric Long and Mark Avino.
- AirSpaceMag.com, May 27, 2011
Boeing built its prototype Model 299 to a 1934 Air Corps specification for a bomber with a 2,000-lb bomb load and a radius of action of more than 1,000 miles. By 1940, the B-17, as it had come to be designated, had evolved into a capable combat aircraft. The American heavy bomber doctrine that evolved through the 1930s centered on daylight precision bombing, though in operations “precision” would be a relative term, with Eighth Air Force heavy bombers dropping 50 percent of their bombs more than 1,500 feet from their targets. The solution was to fly larger formations, putting even more aircraft under the guns of capable German fighters. B-17 armament proliferated with later models mounting up to 13 .50 caliber machine guns and carrying a crew of 10. The defensive fire of B-17s took its toll on the Luftwaffe attackers, but the survival of these formations would ultimately depend on the ability of escorts to minimize the exposure to German air defense fighters.