Tag Archives: Bomber

1 February 1943

A badly damaged Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, 41-24406, All American III, after collision with an Me 109 over Tunis, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
A badly damaged Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, 41-24406, All American III, after collision with a Messerschmitt Bf 109 over Tunis, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

1 February 1943: During World War II, the 414th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 12th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces, was on a mission to attack the docks at the port of Tunis in order to cut the supply chain to the German and Italian armies operating in Tunisia.

A single-engine Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighter defending the city collided with All American III, a Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24406, which was under the command of Lieutenant Kendrick R. Bragg, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps. The fighter cut diagonally through the bomber’s fuselage, carried away the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator, and damaged the flight control cables.

The rugged design and construction that made the Flying Fortress a legend allowed the airplane to fly another 90 minutes to its home base at Biskra Airfield, Algeria. Lieutenant Bragg made a careful landing, holding the tail off the runway as long as possible. None of the ten men aboard were injured.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO 41-24406, All American III, 414th BS, 97th BG, after landing at Biskra Airfield, Algeria, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

All American III was repaired and was returned to service. It was reassigned to the 352nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 301st Bombardment Group (Heavy) at St. Donat, Tunisia, and flew till nearly the end of the war. It was dismantled for salvage at Lucera Airfield, Italy, 6 March 1945.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress 41-24406, All American III, 414th BS, 97th BG, after landing at Biksra Airfield, Algeria, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

41-24406 was assigned to the 92nd Bombardment Group at Bangor, Maine, 13 July 1942. It was flown across the Atlantic Ocean to RAF Polebrook, and reassigned to the 414th. The B-17 arrived at Maison Blanche, Algeria, 13 November 1942. It then traveled to Tafaroufi, Algeria, and then to Biskra, arriving there on Christmas Day.

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 9 inches (22.784 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9.375 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1 inch (5.187 meters). Its empty weight was 34,000 pounds (15,422 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) loaded, and the maximum takeoff weight was 56,500 pounds (25,628 kilograms).

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.1-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) nine-cylinder radial engines with turbochargers, producing 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff and 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level. War Emergency Power was 1,380 horsepower. The Cyclones turned three-bladed constant-speed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction.  The R-1820-97 engine is 47.80 inches (1.214 meters) long and 55.10 inches (1.399 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

These engines gave the B-17F a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet, though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods.

The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters). With a normal fuel load of 2,520 gallons (9,540 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 2,880 miles (4,635 kilometers). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The B-17F Flying Fortress was armed with up to 13 Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. The maximum bomb load was 20,800 pounds (9,435 kilograms) over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) of bombs were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The manufacturer codes -BO, -DL and -VE follows the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence.

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 January 1961

Boeing B-52G-75-BW Stratofortress 57-6471, similar to 58-0187. The numeral "3" on the vertical fin and the white cross-in-back square on the top of the fuselage identify this B-52 as a Boeing flight test aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52G-75-BW Stratofortress 57-6471, similar to 58-0187. The numeral “3” on the vertical fin and the white cross-in-back square on the top of the fuselage identify this B-52 as a Boeing flight test aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)

24 January 1961: A Boeing B-52G-95-BW Stratofortress, serial number 58-0187, of the 4241st Strategic Wing, was on a 24 hour airborne alert mission off the Atlantic Coast of the United States. The bomber was commanded by Major Walter S. Tulloch, U.S. Air Force, with pilots Captain Richard W. Hardin and First Lieutenant Adam C. Mattocks. Other crewmembers were Major Eugene Shelton, Radar Navigator; Captain Paul E. Brown, Navigator; First Lieutenant William H. Wilson, Electronics Warfare Officer; Major Eugene H Richards, Electronics Warfare Instructor; Technical Sergeant Francis R. Barnish, Gunner. It was armed with two Mark 39 thermonuclear bombs, each with an explosive yield of 3–4 megatons.

The B-52 refueled in flight from an air tanker. The tanker’s crew notified Major Tulloch that the B-52’s right wing was leaking fuel. The leak was severe and more than 5,400 gallons (37,000 pounds/17,000 kilograms) of jet fuel was lost in less than three minutes. The B-52 headed for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.

As they descended, the unbalanced condition made the bomber increasingly difficult to control. The bomber went out of control and Major Tulloch ordered the crew to abandon the doomed ship. Five crewmen ejected and one climbed out through the top hatch. (Lieutenant Mattocks is believed to be the only B-52 crewmember to have successfully escaped through the upper hatch.)

58-0187 broke apart and exploded. Its wreckage covered a two square mile area. Three crewmen, Majors Shelton and Richards, and Sergeant Barnish were killed.

As the B-52 broke up, its two Mark 39 bombs were released. One buried itself more than 180 feet deep. The other’s parachute retarding system operated properly and it touched down essentially undamaged. Attempts to recover the buried bomb were unsuccessful and it remains in place today. The second Mark 39 was recovered without difficulty.

One of teh two Mk 39 bombs that fell from the B-52 as it broke up near Goldsboro, South Carolina, 24 January 1961.
One of the two Mk 39 bombs that fell from the B-52 as it broke up near Goldsboro, North Carolina, 24 January 1961. The parachute retarding  system had deployed, allowing the bomb to touch down with minimal damage.

“During a B-52 airborne alert mission structural failure of the right wing resulted in two weapons separating from the aircraft during aircraft breakup at 2,000 – 10,000 feet altitude. One bomb parachute deployed and the weapon received little impact damage. The other bomb fell free and broke apart upon impact. No explosion occurred. Five of the eight crew members survived. A portion of one weapon, containing uranium, could not be recovered despite excavation in the waterlogged farmland to a depth of 50 feet. The Air Force subsequently purchased an easement requiring permission for anyone to dig there. There is no detectable radiation and no hazard in the area.”

An accident of this type, involving the loss of nuclear weapons is known by the military code name BROKEN ARROW. Though official statements were that there was no danger that either of the bombs could have exploded, others indicate that five of the six steps (or six of seven) required for a thermonuclear detonation did occur. Only the aircraft commander’s arming switch had not been activated.

The Mark 39 was a two-stage, radiation-implosion thermonuclear bomb. It was in production from 1957–1959, with more than 700 built. It was fully fused, meaning it could be detonated by contact with the ground, as an air burst, or “lay down”— a series of parachutes would slow the bomb and it would touch down on its target before detonating. This allowed the bomber time to get clear.

The Mark 39 was considered a light weight weapon, weighing 6,500–6,750 pounds (2,950–3,060 kilograms). The bomb’s length was approximately 11 feet, 8 inches (3.556 meters), with a diameter of 2 feet, 11 inches (0.889 meters). The explosive yield of the Mark 39 was 3–4 megatons.

The Mark 39 was withdrawn from service in the mid-1960s and replaced with the more powerful Mk 41.

Bomb, Mark 39Y1 Mod 2, P/N 300611-00, serial number 4215, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Behind it is a Convair B-36 Peacemaker ten-engine strategic bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
Bomb, Mark 39Y1 Mod 2, P/N 300611-00, serial number 4215, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Behind it is a Convair B-36 Peacemaker ten-engine strategic bomber. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 January 1987

Rockwell B-1B Lancer 85-0073, Wings of Freedom, lands at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, 21 January 1987. (U.S. Air Force)
Rockwell B-1B Lancer 85-0073, Wings of Freedom, lands at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, 21 January 1987. (U.S. Air Force)
General John T. Chain, Jr., U.S. Air Force
General John T. Chain, Jr., U.S. Air Force

21 January 1987: The first Rockwell International B-1B Lancer was delivered to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. The airplane, serial number 85-0073, was named Wings of Freedom. It was flown to Ellsworth by General John T. Chain, Jr., Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command.

100 B-1B Lancers were built by Rockwell International’s aircraft division at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, between 1983 and 1988

The Rockwell B-1B is 146 feet (44.501 meters) long, with the wing span varying from 79 feet (24.079 meters) to 137 feet (41.758 meters). It is 34 feet (10.363 meters) high at the top of the vertical fin. The bomber’s empty weight is 192,000 pounds (87,090 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 477,000 pounds (216,364 kilograms)

The bomber is powered by four General Electric F101-GE-102 afterburning turbofan engines, producing 30,780 pounds of thrust, each.

The B-1B has a maximum speed of Mach 1.25 (830 miles per hour (1,336 kilometers per hour) at high altitude, or 0.92 Mach (700 miles per hour, 1,127 kilometers per hour) at 200 feet (61 meters). The Lancer has a service ceiling of 60,000 feet (18,288 meters), and an unrefueled range of 7,456 miles (11,999 kilometers).

It can carry up to 84 Mk.82 500-pound bombs, 24 Mk.84 2,000-pound bombs, or other weapons. The B-1B is not equipped for nuclear strike missions.

Currently 62 B-1B bombers are in the active Air Force inventory, with 2 others in the test fleet.

After 21 years of service, 85-0073 was retired to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, 24 March 2008.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer, 85-0073, Wings of Freedom, at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, 21 January 1987. (U.S. Air Force)
Rockwell B-1B Lancer, 85-0073, Wings of Freedom, at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, 21 January 1987. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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19–20 January 1915

Luftschiff Zeppelin LZ24, the Imperial German Navy bomber L3. (Royal Air Force Museum)
Luftschiff Zeppelin LZ24, the Imperial German Navy bomber L3. (Royal Air Force Museum)

19–20 January 1915: The Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Germany Navy) airship L3, under command of Kapitänleutnant Hans Fritz and Leutnant zur See v. Lynckner, departed Fuhlsbüttel, Hamburg, Germany, at 11:00 a.m., in company with L4 and L6, on a reconnaissance flight over the North Sea, then continued on to Britain, planning to attack during darkness.

Route of Zeppelins L3 and L4

L3 reached the British coast at 8:50 p.m. and proceeded to the area around Norfolk. At 9:20 p.m., Captain Fritz and his airship had reached Greater Yarmouth. Flying in rain at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), over the next ten minutes they dropped six 110 pound (49.9 kilogram) bombs and seven incendiaries on the city below. As L3 turned to leave the area, another four 110 pound bombs were dropped. Completing the attack, L3 returned to Germany, arriving at the airship base at Fuhlsbüttel at 9:30 a.m.

L4, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Magnus von Platen-Hallermund and Leutnant zur See Kruse, dropped eleven bombs on Sheringham and King’s Lynn.

L6 had returned to Germany prior to the attack.

Reports are that a total of 4 people were killed and 16 wounded. Damage was limited.

In the short history of aerial warfare, this was the first time that a civilian population center was the target. It would not be the last.

Damage at King’s Lynn caused by the Zeppelin raid of 19–20 January 1915. (Imperial War Museum)
Damage at King’s Lynn caused by the Zeppelin raid of 19–20 January 1915. (Imperial War Museum)

It was plain that the source of the disturbance was aircraft, though precisely of what kind could only be conjectured. The opinion is generally held that it was a dirigible, for what appeared to be searchlights were seen at a great  altitude. Others, however, say that the lights were not the beams of a searchlight, but the flash of something resembling a magnesium flare.

The Times, Wednesday, 20th January 1915, at Page 8.

Artist's impression of the 19 January 1915 air raid, with Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin.
Artist’s impression of the 19 January 1915 air raid, with Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin.

zeppattyarmouth1vLuftschiff Zeppelin 24 was the third airship built for the Imperial German Navy, which designated it L3. It was operated by a crew of fifteen. The dirigible was 518 feet, 2 inches (157.937 meters) long with a diameter of 48 feet, 6 inches (14.783 meters).

Buoyancy was created by 18 gas cells filled with hydrogen, which had a total volume of 794,500 cubic feet (22,497.3 cubic meters). The empty weight of the airship was 37,250 pounds (16,896 kilograms) and it had a payload of 20,250 pounds (9,185 kilograms).

Three water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 22.921 liter (1,398.725 cubic inches) Maybach C-X six-cylinder inline engines, each producing 207 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m., gave L3 a maximum speed of 47.4 miles per hour (76.3 kilometers per hour).

The Zeppelin’s maximum altitude, limited by the gas cells’ ability to contain the hydrogen as it expanded with increasing altitude, was 6,560 feet (2,000 meters). The maximum range was 1,366 miles (2,198 kilometers).

L3 made its first flight at Friedrichshafen 11 May 1914. On 17 February 1915, the loss of two engines in high winds forced it to ground at Fanoe Island, Denmark, where the crew abandoned it and Captain Fritz set it afire. The crew was interred for the duration of the war.

The crew of L3 was interred for the duration.
The crew of L3 was interred in Denmark for the duration of the war.

L4 (Luftschiff Zeppelin 27) was of the same airship class as L3. It was very slightly heavier and its Maybach C-X engines slightly more powerful. It was retired from service 17 February 1915, the same day that L3 was lost.2187996026

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 January 1932

At the lower left corner of this image, the shadow of a Curtiss B-2 Condor can be seen as it prepares to drop supplies at the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona, 17 January 1932. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)
At the lower left corner of this image, the shadow of a Curtiss B-2 Condor can be seen as it prepares to drop supplies at the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona, 17 January 1932. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)
First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)
First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)

17 January 1932: The 11th Bombardment Squadron, U.S. Army Air Corps, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Howard and based at March Field, Riverside, California, flew six Curtiss B-2 Condor bombers to drop food and supplies to the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona. A severe winter storm had isolated the community and caused the deaths of thousands of livestock.

More than 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of food was dropped to support the 20,000 people of the Navajo and Hopi nations effected by the winter storms.

Lieutenant Howard and the 11th Bombardment Squadron won the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. This was the first time that the Mackay was awarded to a group.

Captain Howard was killed in an aircraft accident near Bryan Mill, Texas, 25 October 1936. Howard Air Force Base, Panama, was named in his honor.

The following is excerpted from the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register web site:

The Air Corps Newsletter of November 1, 1936 reports his passing and summarizes his flying career:

“An airplane accident on the night of October 25th, near Bryan’s Mill, Texas, cost the lives of Captain Charles H. Howard and Corporal Edward N. Gibson, Air Corps, both of whom were stationed at Langley Field, VA.

“Captain Howard, who enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, during the World War, was an efficient and capable officer, an expert pilot, and was particularly well versed in the field of radio communications.

“. . . after serving for a brief period with Company C, 322nd Field Signal Battalion, Fort Lewis, Washington, he was transferred to Kelly Field, Texas, where he served with the 84th Aero Squadron. . .

“During the next four years, Captain Howard’s duties related mainly to radio communications. . . 

“In January 1926, Captain Howard was transferred to the Panama Canal Department, where he served for three years, being on duty with the 7th Observation Squadron at France Field for two years, and with the 25th Bombardment Squadron in the remaining year.

“From Panama, Captain Howard was transferred to Rockwell Field, Calif., when he was assigned to the 11th Bombardment Squadron. He also served as Communications Officer of the 7th Bombardment Group. Later, when the Squadron was transferred to March Field, Calif., he was placed in command thereof.”

It was during this time that he and his crew won the Mackay Trophy.

“During the summer of 1934, Captain Howard piloted one of the B-10 Bombardment planes in the Army Alaskan Flight, from Washington, D.C., to Fairbanks, Alaska, and return. This aerial expedition of ten B-10 airplanes was commanded by Brigadier General Henry H. Arnold. The flight was completed according to a prearranged schedule in exactly one month. In addition to his duties as pilot, Captain Howard served as Assistant Communications Officer of the expedition. . .

“Captain Howard had to his credit over 4,000 hours flying time. He was the author of various articles dealing most interestingly and convincingly with subjects in which he particularly specialized – Bombardment Aviation and Radio Communications.”

Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register http://www.dmairfield.com/index.php

First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, USAAC and Dr. Robert A. Millikan of CalTech, with a Curtiss B-2 Condor bomber at March Field, 27 October 1932. (© Bettman/CORBIS)
First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps and Dr. Robert A. Millikan of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), with a Curtiss B-2 Condor bomber at March Field, 27 October 1932. (© Bettman/CORBIS)

The Curtiss B-2 Condor was a large (by contemporary standards) twin-engine biplane bomber, operated by a crew of five. It was 47 feet, 4.5 inches (14.440 meters) long with a 90 foot (27.432 meter) wingspan and overall height of 16 feet, 6 inches (5.029 meters).

The B-2 was powered by two liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,570.381-cubic-inch-displacement (25.734 liter) Curtiss Conqueror V-1570-7 DOHC 60° V-12 engines producing 633 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m., each, driving three-bladed propellers.

The airplane had an empty weight of 9,300 pounds (4,218.4 kilograms) and loaded weight of 16,591 pounds (7,525.6 kilograms).

The bomber had a maximum speed of 132 miles per hour (212 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and a range of 805 miles (1,296 kilometers).

Although the Condor’s service ceiling was 16,140 feet (4,920 meters), Lieutenant Howard flew one to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) while conducting an experiment in cosmic ray research for Dr. Robert Andrews Millikan of Caltech, Pasadena, California. (“Service ceiling” is the altitude above which an aircraft can no longer maintain at least a 100 feet per minute/0.5 meters per second rate of climb.)

Defensive armament consisted of six .30-caliber Lewis machine guns, with gunners’ positions at the nose and behind each engine. The B-2 could carry 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms) of bombs.

Including the XB-2 prototype, 13 B-2s were built, and a single B-2A. They were removed from service by 1934 as more modern designs became available.

A Curtiss B-2 Condor, serial number 28-399, in flight near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (U.S. Air Force)
A Curtiss B-2 Condor, serial number 28-399, in flight near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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