Boeing: History — The War Years – B-29 Superfortress

B-29 Superfortress

B-29 Superfortress

Boeing submitted the prototype for the B-29 long-range heavy bomber to the Army in 1939, before the United States entered World War II.

The B-29 had many new features, including guns that could be fired
by remote control. The crew areas were pressurized and connected by
a long tube over the bomb bays. The tail gunner had a separate pressurized
area that could only be left during unpressurized flight. The B-29 was
also the heaviest production plane because of increases in range, bomb
load and defensive requirements.

The B-29 used the high-speed Boeing 117 airfoil, and its larger Fowler
flaps added to the wing area as they increased lift. Modifications led
to the B-29D, upgraded to the B-50, and the RB-29 photo reconnaissance
aircraft. The Soviet-built copy of the B-29 was called the Tupolev Tu-4.

The earliest B-29s were built before testing was finished, so the Army established
modification centers where last-minute changes could be made without slowing expanding
assembly lines

Boeing built a total of 2,766 B-29s at plants in Wichita, Kansas, (previously
the Stearman Aircraft Co., bought by Boeing in 1929) and in Renton,
Washington. The Bell Aircraft Co. built 668 of the giant bombers in
Georgia, and the Glenn L. Martin Co. built 536 in Nebraska. Production
ended in 1946.

B-29s were primarily used in the Pacific theater during World War II. As many
as 1,000 Superfortresses at a time bombed Tokyo, destroying large parts
of the city. Finally, on Aug. 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped
the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later a second
B-29, Bockscar, dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Shortly
thereafter, Japan surrendered.

After the war, B-29s were adapted for several functions, including
in-flight refueling, anti-submarine patrol, weather reconnaissance,
and rescue duty. The B-29 saw military service again in Korea between
1950 and 1953, battling new adversaries: jet fighters and electronic
weapons. The last B-29 in squadron use retired from service in September

First flight: Sept. 21, 1942
Model number: 345
Classification: Bomber
Span: 141 feet 3 inches
Length: 99 feet
Gross weight: 105,000 pounds (140,000 pounds postwar)
Top speed: 365 mph
Cruising speed: 220 mph
Range: 5,830 miles
Ceiling: 31,850 feet
Power: Four 2,200-horsepower Wright Double Cyclone engines
Accommodation: 10 crew
Armament: 12 .50-caliber machine guns, 1 20 mm cannon, 20,000-pound bomb load