Boeing B-29 Superfortress photo gallery

USAAF 5th Air Force emblem

Pacific Theater Operations - 5AF

The Fifth Air Force (5 AF) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is headquartered at Yokota Air Base, Japan. It is the U.S. Air Force's oldest continuously serving Numbered Air Force. The organization has provided 80 years of continuous air power to the Pacific since its establishment in September 1941.

Fifth Air Force is the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces forward element in Japan, and maximizes partnership capabilities and promotes bilateral defense cooperation. In addition, 5 AF is the air component to United States Forces Japan.

Its mission is three-fold. First, it plans, conducts, controls, and coordinates air operations assigned by the PACAF Commander. Fifth Air Force maintains a level of readiness necessary for successful completion of directed military operations. And last, but certainly not least, Fifth Air Force assists in the mutual defense of Japan and enhances regional stability by planning, exercising, and executing joint air operations in partnership with Japan. To achieve this mission, Fifth Air Force maintains its deterrent force posture to protect both U.S. and Japanese interests, and conducts appropriate air operations should deterrence fail.


Fourteen Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses that survived the Battle of the Philippines left Mindanao for Darwin, Australia, between 17 and 20 December 1941, the only aircraft of the Far East Air Force to escape. After its evacuation from the Philippines on 24 December 1941, FEAF headquarters moved to Australia and was reorganized and redesignated 5 Air Force on 5 February 1942, with most of its combat aircraft based on fields on Java. It seemed at the time that the Japanese were advancing just about everywhere. The remaining heavy bombers of the 19th Bombardment Group, based at Malang on Java, flew missions against the Japanese in an attempt to stop their advance. They were joined in January and February, two or three at a time, by 37 B-17Es and 12 LB-30s of the 7th Bombardment Group. The small force of bombers, never numbering more than 20 operational at any time, could do little to prevent the invasion of the Netherlands East Indies, launching valiant but futile attacks against the masses of Japanese shipping, with six lost in combat, six in accidents, and 26 destroyed on the ground.

The 7th Bombardment Group was withdrawn to India in March 1942, leaving the 19th to carry on as the only B-17 Fortress-equipped group in the South Pacific. About this time it was decided that replacement B-17s would not be sent to the southwest Pacific, but be sent exclusively to the Eighth Air Force which was building up in England. By May, Fifth Air Force's surviving personnel and aircraft were detached to other commands and the headquarters remained unmanned for several months, but elements played a small part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (7–8 May 1942) when the 435th Bomb Squadron of the 19th Bomb Group saw the Japanese fleet gathering in Rabaul area nearly two weeks before the battle actually took place. Because of the reconnaissance activity of the 435th Bomb Squadron, the US Navy was prepared to cope adequately with the situation. The squadron was commended by the US Navy for its valuable assistance not only for its excellent reconnaissance work but for the part played in the battle.

Headquarters Fifth Air Force was re-staffed at Brisbane, Australia on 18 September 1942 and placed under the command of Major General George Kenney. United States Army Air Forces units in Australia, including Fifth Air Force, were eventually reinforced and re-organised following their initial defeats in the Philippines and the East Indies. At the time that Kenney had arrived, Fifth Air Force was equipped with three fighter groups and five bombardment groups.

Fighter Groups:

8th FG (P-39) Townsville, Australia

35th FG (P-40) Port Moresby, New Guinea

49th FG (P-40) Darwin, Australia

Bomber Groups:

3rd BG (B-25, A-20, & A-24) Charters Towers, Australia

19th BG (Non-Operational. Battle scarred from Philippines & Java) Mareeba, Australia

22nd BG (B-26) Woodstock, Australia

38th BG (B-25) Charters Towers, Australia

43rd BG (B-17 until 1943; B-24 1943–1945) Port Moresby, New Guinea

In addition, Fifth Air Force controlled two transport squadrons and one photographic squadron comprising 1,602 officers and 18,116 men.

Kenney was later appointed commander of Allied air forces in the South West Pacific Area, reporting directly to General Douglas MacArthur. Under Kenney's leadership, the Fifth Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force provided the aerial spearhead for MacArthur's island hopping campaign.

US Far East Air Forces

On 4 November 1942, the Fifth Air Force commenced sustained action against the Japanese in Papua New Guinea and was a key component of the New Guinea campaign (1942–1945). Fifth Air Force engaged the Japanese again in the Philippines campaign (1944–45) as well as in the Battle of Okinawa (1945).

Fifth Air Force along with Thirteenth Air Force in the Central Pacific and Seventh Air Force in Hawaii were assigned to the newly created United States Far East Air Forces (FEAF) on 3 August 1944. FEAF was subordinate to the U.S. Army Forces Far East and served as the headquarters of Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific Area. By 1945, the three numbered air forces were supporting operations throughout the Pacific. FEAF was the functional equivalent in the Pacific of the United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) in the European Theater of Operations.

Order of battle, 1945

USAAF 5th Air Force emblem
5AF Order of battle, 1945
V Fighter Command Night Fighter Units V Bomber Command Photo Reconnaissance 54th Troop Carrier Wing
3d ACG (P-51, C-47) 418th NFS 3d BG (L) (B-25, A-20) 6th RG (F-5, F-7) 2d CCG
8th FG (P-40, P-38) 421st NFS 22d BG (M/H) (B-26 – B-24) 71st RG (B-25) 317th TCG
35th FG (P-47, P-51) 547th NFS 38th BG (M) (B-25)   374th TCG (1943 only)
49th FG (P-40, P-47, P-38)   43d BG (H) (B-24)   375th TCG
58th FG (P-47)   90th BG (H) (B-24)   433d TCG
348th FG (P-47, P-51)   312th BG (L) (A-20)    
475th FG (P-38)   345th BG (M) (B-25)    
    380th BG (H) (B-24)    
    417th BG (L) (A-20)    

LEGEND: ACG – Air Commando Group, FG – Fighter Group, NFS – Night Fighter Squadron, BG (L) – Light Bomb Group, BG (M) – Medium Bomb Group, BG (H) – Heavy Bomb Group, RG – Reconnaissance Group, CCG – Combat Cargo Group, TCG – Troop Carrier Group

When the war ended, Fifth Air Force had an unmatched record of 3,445 aerial victories, led by the nation's two top fighter aces Major Richard Bong and Major Thomas McGuire, with 40 and 38 confirmed victories respectively, and two of Fifth Air Force's ten Medal of Honor recipients.

Shortly after World War II ended in August, Fifth Air Force relocated to Irumagawa Air Base, Japan, about 25 September 1945 as part of the Allied occupation forces. The command remained in Japan until 1 December 1950 performing occupation duties.

Korean War

In 1950, Fifth Air Force was called upon again, becoming the main United Nations Command combat air command during the Korean War, and assisted in bringing about the Korean Armistice Agreement that formally ended the war in 1953.

In the early morning hours of 25 June, North Korea launched a sudden, all-out attack against the south. Reacting quickly to the invasion, Fifth Air Force units provided air cover over the skies of Seoul. The command transferred to Seoul on 1 December 1950, remaining in South Korea until 1 September 1954.

In this first Jet War, units assigned to the Fifth Air Force racked up an unprecedented 14.5 to 1 victory ratio. By the time the truce was signed in 1953, Fifth Air Force had flown over 625,000 missions, downing 953 North Korean and Chinese aircraft, while close air support accounted for 47 percent of all enemy troop casualties.

Thirty-eight fighter pilots were identified as aces, including Lieutenant Colonel James Jabara, America's first jet ace; and Captain Joseph McConnell, the leading Korean War ace with 16 confirmed victories. Additionally, four Medals of Honor were awarded to Fifth Air Force members. One other pilot of note was Marine Major John Glenn, who flew for Fifth Air Force as part of an exchange program.

With the end of combat in Korea, Fifth Air Force returned to normal peacetime readiness Japan in 1954.

Cold War

Not only concerned with maintaining a strong tactical posture for the defense of both Japan and South Korea, Fifth Air Force played a critical role in helping the establishment of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force as well as the Republic of Korea Air Force. These and other peacetime efforts lasted a decade before war clouds once again developed in the Pacific.

This time, the area of concern was Southeast Asia, beginning in 1964 with the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis. Fifth Air Force furnished aircraft, aircrews, Support personnel, and supplies throughout the eight years of combat operations in South Vietnam and Laos. Since 1972, the Pacific has seen relative calm, but that doesn't mean Fifth Air Force hasn't been active in other roles. The command has played active or supporting roles in a variety of issues ranging from being first on the scene at the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shoot down in 1983 to deploying personnel and supplies for the Persian Gulf War in 1990.

During this time span, the size of Fifth Air Force changed as well. With the activation of Seventh Air Force in 1986, fifth left the Korean Peninsula and focused its energy on continuing the growing bilateral relationship with Japan.

The Fifth Air Force's efforts also go beyond combat operations. Fifth Air force has reacted to natural disasters in Japan and abroad. These efforts include the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 and Super Typhoon Paka which hit Guam in 1997. Fifth Air Force has reached out to provide assistance to victims of floods, typhoons, volcanoes, and earthquakes throughout the region.

The 432d Tactical Fighter Wing flew F-16s from Misawa Air Base from July 1, 1984 – October 31, 1994. On the inactivation of the wing, its personnel, aircraft, and other assets were used to reform the 35th Fighter Wing.

Present Day

Today, according to the organization's website, major components include the 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan; the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, and the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base. Kadena AB hosts the 18th Wing, the largest combat wing in the USAF. The Wing includes F-15 fighters, KC-135 refuelers, E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, and HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, and represents a major combat presence and capability in the Western Pacific. The 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan, includes two squadrons equipped with the most modern Block 50 F-16 variant, dedicated to the suppression of enemy air defenses. The final formation is the 374th Airlift Wing, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

According to a 2017 study by two US Navy commanders, in case of a surprise Chinese ballistic missile attack against airbases in Japan, more than 200 U.S. aircraft would be trapped or destroyed on the ground in the first hours of the conflict.

Lineage, assignments, stations, and components


Established as Philippine Department Air Force on 16 August 1941

Activated on 20 September 1941

Redesignated: Far East Air Force on 16 November 1941

Redesignated: 5 Air Force on 5 February 1942

Redesignated: Fifth Air Force* on 18 September 1942.

Fifth Air Force is not to be confused with a second "Fifth" air force created as a temporary establishment to handle combat operations after the outbreak of hostilities on 25 June 1950, in Korea. This numbered air force was established as Fifth Air Force, Advance, and organized at Itazuki AB, Japan, assigned to Fifth Air Force, on 14 July 1950. It moved to Taegu AB, South Korea, on 24 July 1950, and was redesignated Fifth Air Force in Korea at the same time. After moving, it apparently received command control from U.S. Far East Air Forces. The establishment operated from Pusan, Taegu, and Seoul before being discontinued on 1 December 1950.


V Air Force Service: 18 June 1943 – 15 June 1944

V Air Service Area: 9 January 1944 – 15 June 1944

5 Bomber (later, V Bomber): 14 November 1941 – 31 May 1946

V Fighter: 25 August 1942 – 31 May 1946

5 Interceptor: 4 November 1941 – 6 April 1942

Became Army Air Force Infantry unit during Battle of the Philippines (1941–42) (20 December 1941 – 9 April 1942)

Far East Air Service (later, 5 Air Force Base; V Air Force Base): 28 October 1941 – 2 November 1942


39th Air Division: 1 September 1954 – 15 January 1968

41st Air Division: 1 September 1954 – 15 January 1968

43d Air Division: 1 September 1954 – 1 October 1957

313th Air Division: 1 March 1955 – 1 October 1991

314th Air Division: 31 May 1946 – 1 March 1950; 1 December 1950 – 18 May 1951; 15 March 1955 – 8 September 1986

315 Air Division (formerly, 315 Composite Wing): 1 June 1946 – 1 March 1950.


8th Fighter Wing, later 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, 1950s

18th Wing: 1 Oct 1991-.

35th Fighter Wing: 1 Oct 1994-.

51st Fighter Wing: 1955-September 1986

374th Airlift Wing: 1 Apr 1992-.

432d Tactical Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan: July 1, 1984 – May 31, 1991; 432d Fighter Wing from June 1, 1991 - October 31, 1994 (wing personnel and assets thereafter used to reactivate 35th Fighter Wing)

6100th Support Wing, Tachikawa Air Base, Japan: "Brigadier General Thomas R. FORD Replaced Col. Lewis B. MENG as commander of 6100th Support Wing effective" 11 June 1962. "6100 Support Wing was Major Air Command control (MAJCON) unit directly subordinate to Headquarters (HQ) 5 Air Force. Contains.. functions of various subordinate elements of 6100 Support Wing (Kanto Base Command)."


2nd Combat Cargo Group: October 1944-15 January 1946


Philippine Department, U.S. Army, 20 September 1941

US Forces in Australia (USFIA), 23 December 1941

Redesignated: US Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), 5 January 1942

American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM), 23 February 1942

Allied Air Force, Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA), 2 November 1942

Far East Air Forces (Provisional), 15 June 1944

Far East Air Forces, 3 August 1944

Redesignated: Pacific Air Command, United States Army, 6 December 1945

Redesignated: Far East Air Forces, 1 January 1947

Redesignated Pacific Air Forces, 1 July 1957—present


Nichols Field, Luzon, 20 September 1941

RAAF Base Darwin, Australia, 31 December 1941

Bandoeng, Java, 18 January 1942

Brisbane AAB, Australia,c 1 March 1942

Nadzab Airfield, New Guinea, 15 June 1944

Owi Airfield, Schouten Islands, Netherlands East Indies, 10 August 1944

Bayug Airfield, Leyte, Philippines, c. 20 November 1944

McGuire Field, Mindoro, Philippines, January 1945

Clark Field, Luzon, Philippines, April 1945

Hamasaki (Motobu Airfield), Okinawa, 4 August 1945

Irumagawa AB, Japan, c. 25 September 1945

Tokyo, Japan, 13 January 1946

Nagoya, Japan, 20 May 1946

Seoul AB (K-16), Korea, 1 December 1950

Taegu AB (K-2), Korea, 22 December 1950

Seoul AB (K-16), 15 June 1951

Osan AB, Korea, 25 January 1954

Nagoya AB (later, Nagoya AS; Moriyama AS), Japan, 1 September 1954

Fuchu AS, Japan, 1 July 1957

Yokota AB, Japan, 11 November 1974–present

Pacific Ocean theater of World War II

Pacific Ocean theater of World War II

The Pacific Ocean theater of World War II was a major theater of the Pacific War, the war between the Allies and the Empire of Japan. It was defined by the Allied powers' Pacific Ocean Area command, which included most of the Pacific Ocean and its islands, while mainland Asia was excluded, as were the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, Australia, most of the Territory of New Guinea, and the western part of the Solomon Islands.

It officially came into existence on March 30, 1942, when US Admiral Chester Nimitz was appointed Supreme Allied Commander Pacific Ocean Areas.[1] In the other major theater in the Pacific region, known as the South West Pacific theatre, Allied forces were commanded by US General Douglas MacArthur. Both Nimitz and MacArthur were overseen by the US Joint Chiefs and the Western Allies Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCoS).

Most Japanese forces in the theater were part of the Combined Fleet (連合艦隊, Rengō Kantai) of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), which was responsible for all Japanese warships, naval aircraft, and marine infantry units. The Rengō Kantai was led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, until he was killed in an attack by U.S. fighter planes in April 1943.[2] Yamamoto was succeeded by Admiral Mineichi Koga (1943–44)[2] and Admiral Soemu Toyoda (1944–45).[3] The General Staff (参謀本部, Sanbō Honbu) of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) was responsible for Imperial Japanese Army ground and air units in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. The IJN and IJA did not formally use joint/combined staff at the operational level, and their command structures/geographical areas of operations overlapped with each other and those of the Allies.

In the Pacific Ocean theater, Japanese forces fought primarily against the United States Navy, the U.S. Army, which had 6 Corps and 21 Divisions, and the U.S. Marine Corps, which had only 6 Divisions. The United Kingdom (British Pacific Fleet), New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and other Allied nations, also contributed forces.

Major campaigns and battles

Pacific Theater

Attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941[4]

Battle of Wake Island 7–23 December 1941[5]

Philippines campaign (1941–1942) 8 December 1941 – 8 May 1942

Doolittle Raid 18 April 1942[4]

Battle of Midway 4–7 June 1942[4]

Guadalcanal campaign 7 August 1942 to 9 February 1943

Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign 1943–44

Makin Island raid 17–18 August 1942[6]

Battle of Tarawa 20 November 1943[4]

Battle of Makin 20–23 November 1943

Battle of Kwajalein 14 February 1944[7]

Battle of Eniwetok 17 February 1944[8]

Attack on Truk Island 17–18 February 1944

Mariana and Palau Islands campaign 1944

Battle of Saipan 15 June 1944[9]

Battle of the Philippine Sea 19–21 June 1944[10]

Battle of Guam 21 July 1944[11]

Battle of Tinian 24 July 1944[11]

Battle of Peleliu 15 September 1944[12]

Battle of Angaur 17 September 1944[12]

Battle of Leyte 17 October 1944

Battle of Luzon 9 January 1945

Battle of Iwo Jima 19 February 1945[4]

Battle of Okinawa 1 April 1945[4]

North Pacific Theater

Aleutian Islands Campaign 1942–43

Battle of the Komandorski Islands 26 March 1943[4]

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

National origin:- United States
Role:- Strategic bomber, Heavy bomber
Manufacturer:- Boeing
Designer:- the Boeing Company
First flight:- 21st September 1942[1]
Introduction:- 8th May 1944
Produced:- 1943–1946[2]
Status:- Retired
Number built:- 3,970
Primary users:- United States Army Air Force; United States Air Force; Royal Air Force
Variants:- Boeing KB-29 Superfortress; XB-39 Superfortress; Boeing XB-44 Superfortress; Boeing B-50 Superfortress
Developed into:- Boeing 377 Stratocruiser; Tupolev Tu-4

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress is an American four-engined propeller-driven heavy bomber, designed by Boeing and flown primarily by the United States during World War II and the Korean War. Named in allusion to its predecessor, the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Superfortress was designed for high-altitude strategic bombing, but also excelled in low-altitude night incendiary bombing, and in dropping naval mines to blockade Japan. B-29s dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only aircraft ever to drop nuclear weapons in combat.

One of the largest aircraft of World War II, the B-29 was designed with state-of-the-art technology, which included a pressurized cabin, dual-wheeled tricycle landing gear, and an analog computer-controlled fire-control system that allowed one gunner and a fire-control officer to direct four remote machine gun turrets. The $3 billion cost of design and production (equivalent to $45 billion today),[3] far exceeding the $1.9 billion cost of the Manhattan Project, made the B-29 program the most expensive of the war.[4][5] The B-29's advanced design allowed it to remain in service in various roles throughout the 1950s. The type was retired in the early 1960s, after 3,970 of them had been built. A few were also used as flying television transmitters by the Stratovision company. The Royal Air Force flew the B-29 as the Washington until 1954.

The B-29 was the progenitor of a series of Boeing-built bombers, transports, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft, and trainers. For example, the re-engined B-50 Superfortress became Lucky Lady II, the first aircraft to fly around the world non-stop, during a 94-hour flight in 1949. The Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter airlifter, which was first flown in 1944, was followed in 1947 by its commercial airliner variant, the Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser. This bomber-to-airliner derivation was similar to the B-17/Model 307 evolution. In 1948, Boeing introduced the KB-29 tanker, followed in 1950 by the Model 377-derivative KC-97. A line of outsized-cargo variants of the Stratocruiser is the Guppy / Mini Guppy / Super Guppy, which remain in service with NASA and other operators. The Soviet Union produced 847 Tupolev Tu-4s, an unlicensed reverse-engineered copy of the B-29. Twenty B-29s remain as static displays, but only two, FIFI and Doc, still fly.[6]

Design and development

Before World War II, the United States Army Air Corps concluded that the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, which would be the Americans' primary strategic bomber during the war, would be inadequate for the Pacific Theater, which required a bomber that could carry a larger payload more than 3,000 miles.[7]

In response, Boeing began work on pressurized long-range bombers in 1938. Boeing's design study for the Model 334 was a pressurized derivative of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress with nosewheel undercarriage. Although the Air Corps lacked funds to pursue the design, Boeing continued development with its own funds as a private venture.[8] In April 1939, Charles Lindbergh convinced General Henry H. Arnold to produce a new bomber in large numbers to counter the Germans' bomber production.[9] In December 1939, the Air Corps issued a formal specification for a so-called 'superbomber' that could deliver 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) of bombs to a target 2,667 mi (4,292 km) away, and at a speed of 400 mph (640 km/h). Boeing's previous private venture studies formed the starting point for its response to the Air Corps formal specification.[10]

Boeing submitted its Model 345 on 11 May 1940,[11] in competition with designs from Consolidated Aircraft (the Model 33, which later became the B-32),[12] Lockheed (the Lockheed XB-30),[13] and Douglas (the Douglas XB-31).[14] Douglas and Lockheed soon abandoned work on their projects, but Boeing received an order for two flying prototypes, which were given the designation XB-29, and an airframe for static testing on 24 August 1940, with the order being revised to add a third flying aircraft on 14 December. Consolidated continued to work on its Model 33, as it was seen by the Air Corps as a backup if there were problems with Boeing's design.[15] Boeing received an initial production order for 14 service test aircraft and 250 production bombers in May 1941,[16] this being increased to 500 aircraft in January 1942.[11] The B-29 featured a fuselage design with circular cross-section for strength. The need for pressurization in the cockpit area also led to the B-29 being one of very few American combat aircraft of World War II to have a stepless cockpit design, without a separate windscreen for the pilots.

Manufacturing the B-29 was a complex task that involved four main-assembly factories. There were two Boeing operated plants at Renton, Washington, (Boeing Renton), and one in Wichita, Kansas, (now Spirit AeroSystems), a Bell plant at Marietta, Georgia, near Atlanta ('Bell-Atlanta'), and a Martin plant at Omaha, Nebraska, ('Martin-Omaha' – Offutt Field).[11][17] Thousands of subcontractors were also involved in the project.[18] The first prototype made its maiden flight from Boeing Field, Seattle, on 21 September 1942.[17] The combined effects of the aircraft's highly advanced design, challenging requirements, immense pressure for production, and hurried development caused setbacks. Unlike the unarmed first prototype,[19] the second was fitted with a Sperry defensive armament system using remote-controlled gun turrets sighted by periscopes and first flew on 30 December 1942, although the flight was terminated due to a serious engine fire.[20]

On 18 February 1943, the second prototype, flying out of Boeing Field in Seattle, experienced an engine fire and crashed.[20] The crash killed Boeing test pilot Edmund T. Allen and his 10-man crew, 20 workers at the Frye Meat Packing Plant and a Seattle firefighter.[21] Changes to the production craft came so often and so fast that, in early 1944, B-29s flew from the production lines directly to modification depots for extensive rebuilds to incorporate the latest changes. AAF-contracted modification centers and its own air depot system struggled to handle the scope of the requirements. Some facilities lacked hangars capable of housing the giant B-29, requiring outdoor work in freezing weather, further delaying necessary modification. By the end of 1943, although almost 100 aircraft had been delivered, only 15 were airworthy.[22][23] This prompted an intervention by General Hap Arnold to resolve the problem, with production personnel being sent from the factories to the modification centers to speed availability of sufficient aircraft to equip the first bomb groups in what became known as the 'Battle of Kansas'. This resulted in 150 aircraft being modified in the five weeks, between 10 March and 15 April 1944.[24][25][26]

The most common cause of maintenance headaches and catastrophic failures was the engines.[24] Although the Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone radial engines later became a trustworthy workhorse in large piston-engined aircraft, early models were beset with dangerous reliability problems. This problem was not fully cured until the aircraft was fitted with the more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 'Wasp Major' in the B-29D/B-50 program, which arrived too late for World War II. Interim measures included cuffs placed on propeller blades to divert a greater flow of cooling air into the intakes, which had baffles installed to direct a stream of air onto the exhaust valves. Oil flow to the valves was also increased, asbestos baffles were installed around rubber push rod fittings to prevent oil loss, thorough pre-flight inspections were made to detect unseated valves, and mechanics frequently replaced the uppermost five cylinders (every 25 hours of engine time) and the entire engines (every 75 hours).[N 1][24][27]

Pilots, including the present-day pilots of the Commemorative Air Force's Fifi, one of the last two remaining flying B-29s, describe flight after takeoff as being an urgent struggle for airspeed (generally, flight after takeoff should consist of striving for altitude). Radial engines need airflow to keep them cool, and failure to get up to speed as soon as possible could result in an engine failure and risk of fire. One useful technique was to check the magnetos while already on takeoff roll rather than during a conventional static engine-runup before takeoff.[27]

In wartime, the B-29 was capable of flight at altitudes up to 31,850 feet (9,710 m),[28] at speeds of up to 350 mph (560 km/h; 300 kn) (true airspeed). This was its best defense because Japanese fighters could barely reach that altitude, and few could catch the B-29 even if they did attain that altitude.

The General Electric Central Fire Control system on the B-29 directed four remotely controlled turrets armed with two .50 Browning M2 machine guns each.[N 2] All weapons were aimed optically, with targeting computed by analog electrical instrumentation. There were five interconnected sighting stations located in the nose and tail positions and three Plexiglas blisters in the central fuselage.[N 3] Five General Electric analog computers (one dedicated to each sight) increased the weapons' accuracy by compensating for factors such as airspeed, lead, gravity, temperature and humidity. The computers also allowed a single gunner to operate two or more turrets (including tail guns) simultaneously. The gunner in the upper position acted as fire control officer, managing the distribution of turrets among the other gunners during combat.[29][30][31][32] The tail position initially had two .50 Browning machine guns and a single M2 20 mm cannon. Later aircraft had the 20 mm cannon removed,[33] sometimes replaced by a third machine gun.[34]

In early 1945, Major General Curtis Lemay, commander of XXI Bomber Command—the Marianas-based B-29-equipped bombing force—ordered most of the defensive armament and remote-controlled sighting equipment removed from the B-29s under his command. The affected aircraft had the same reduced defensive firepower as the nuclear weapons-delivery intended Silverplate B-29 airframes and could carry greater fuel and bomb loads as a result of the change. The lighter defensive armament was made possible by a change in mission from high-altitude, daylight bombing with high explosive bombs to low-altitude night raids using incendiary bombs.[35] As a consequence of that requirement, Bell Atlanta (BA) produced a series of 311 B-29Bs that had turrets and sighting equipment omitted, except for the tail position, which was fitted with AN/APG-15 fire-control radar.[36] That version could also have an improved APQ-7 'Eagle' bombing-through-overcast radar fitted in an airfoil-shaped radome under the fuselage. Most of those aircraft were assigned to the 315th Bomb Wing, Northwest Field, Guam.[37]

Pressurization The crew would enjoy, for the first time in a bomber, full-pressurization comfort. This first-ever cabin pressure system for an Allied production bomber was developed for the B-29 by Garrett AiResearch.[N 4] Both the forward and rear crew compartments were to be pressurized, but the designers had to decide whether to have bomb bays that were not pressurized or a fully pressurized fuselage that would have to be de-pressurized prior to opening the bomb bay doors. The solution was to have bomb bays that were not pressurized and a long tunnel joining the forward and rear crew compartments. Crews could use the tunnel if necessary to crawl from one pressurized compartment to the other.[38]

Operational history

World War II

In September 1941, the Army Air Forces plans for war against Germany and Japan proposed basing the B-29 in Egypt for operations against Germany, as British airbases were likely to be overcrowded.[39][40] Air Force planning throughout 1942 and early 1943 continued to have the B-29 deployed initially against Germany, only transferring to the Pacific after the end of the war in Europe. By the end of 1943, plans had changed, partly due to production delays, and the B-29 was dedicated to the Pacific Theater.[41] A new plan implemented at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a promise to China, called Operation Matterhorn, deployed the B-29 units to attack Japan from four forward bases in southern China, with five main bases in India, and to attack other targets in the region from China and India as needed.[42] The Chengdu region was eventually chosen over the Guilin region to avoid having to raise, equip, and train 50 Chinese divisions to protect the advanced bases from Japanese ground attack.[43] The XX Bomber Command, initially intended to be two combat wings of four groups each, was reduced to a single wing of four groups because of the lack of availability of aircraft, automatically limiting the effectiveness of any attacks from China.

This was an extremely costly scheme, as there was no overland connection available between India and China, and all supplies had to be flown over the Himalayas, either by transport aircraft or by B-29s themselves, with some aircraft being stripped of armor and guns and used to deliver fuel. B-29s started to arrive in India in early April 1944. The first B-29 flight to airfields in China (over the Himalayas, or 'The Hump') took place on 24 April 1944. The first B-29 combat mission was flown on 5 June 1944, with 77 out of 98 B-29s launched from India bombing the railroad shops in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Five B-29s were lost during the mission, none to hostile fire.[42][44]

Forward base in China

On 5 June 1944, B-29s raided Bangkok, in what is reported as a test before being deployed against the Japanese home islands. Sources do not report from where they launched and vary as to the numbers involved—77, 98, and 114 being claimed. Targets were Bangkok's Memorial Bridge and a major power plant. Bombs fell over two kilometers away, damaged no civilian structures, but destroyed some tram lines, and destroyed both a Japanese military hospital and the Japanese secret police headquarters.[45] On 15 June 1944, 68 B-29s took off from bases around Chengdu, 47 B-29s bombed the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. This was the first attack on Japanese islands since the Doolittle raid in April 1942.[46] The first B-29 combat losses occurred during this raid, with one B-29 destroyed on the ground by Japanese fighters after an emergency landing in China,[47] one lost to anti-aircraft fire over Yawata, and another, the Stockett's Rocket (after Capt. Marvin M. Stockett, Aircraft Commander) B-29-1-BW 42-6261,[N 5] disappeared after takeoff from Chakulia, India, over the Himalayas (12 KIA, 11 crew and one passenger).[49] This raid, which did little damage to the target, with only one bomb striking the target factory complex,[50] nearly exhausted fuel stocks at the Chengdu B-29 bases, resulting in a slow-down of operations until the fuel stockpiles could be replenished.[51] Starting in July, the raids against Japan from Chinese airfields continued at relatively low intensity.

Japan was bombed on:

(with 14 B-29s) STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (20AF): 14 B-29s, operating out of Chengtu, China during the night of 7/8 Jul, bomb Sasebo, Omura, and Tobata, Japan (most of the planes hitting the Sasebo area); 3 others attack secondary and last resort targets at Laoyao and in the Hankow area of China.

(with over 70+ B-29s) STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (20AF): In China, 70+ B-29s out of Chengtu bomb the Showa Steel Works at Anshan and harbor at Taku; the first B-29 to be shot down on a combat mission and falls to 5 fighters near Chenghsien (which the B-29 bombs after engine trouble causes an abort from the primary mission); another B-29 bombs Chinwangtao before making a forced landing at a friendly field near Ankang.

(with 24 B-29s) STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (20AF): 2 missions are flown during the night of 10/11Aug; in one, 24 B-29s, out of Chengtu, China, bomb the urban area of Nagasaki, Japan and 3 others hit targets of opportunity; the B-29s claim 1 fighter shot down, the first such claim (except probables) by the B-29s. In other missions, the first staged through China Bay, Ceylon, 31 B-29s bomb oil refineries at Palembang, Sumatra, 8 mine the Moesi River nearby, and 3 hit targets of opportunity and a secondary target; the first attack, from Ceylon to Sumatra, is the longest single-stage combat flight (about 3,900 miles or 6,276 km) by B-29s during the war.

(with 61 B-29s)[52] STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (20AF): 61Chengtu, China-based B-29s bomb the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, Japan during the day, followed by 10 more during the night of 20/21Aug, 5 hitting targets other than the primary; 14 B-29s are lost, including 1to AA and 4 to enemy aircraft (1by air-to-air bombing and 1by ramming); B-29 gunners claim 17 air victories.

(with 90 B-29s) STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (20AF): In China, 90 Chengtu-based B-29s bomb the Showa Steel Works at Anshan, 3 others bomb other targets in Anshan, 5 hit Sinsiang railroad yards, and 3 others hit various targets of opportunity; Major General Curtis Emerson LeMay, Commanding General XX Bomber Command, accompanies the mission . During the night of 8/9 Sep Japanese bombers attack HQ, storage areas, and parked aircraft at Hsinching (near Chengtu) damaging a B-29, a C-46, and wounding 2 soldiers.

(with 83 B-29s) STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (20AF): In China, 83 B-29s, staging from Chengtu, bomb Anshan most of them striking the Showa Steel Works with poor results; 15 others bomb Dairen, Sinsiang, and various targets of opportunity; during the night of 26/27 Sep, Japanese aircraft bomb the Chengtu area, damaging 5 B-29s; this attack along with the one on 8 Sep set the pattern for Japanese raids which usually follow B-29 missions and continue until 19 Dec but are of light nature and annoying rather than seriously damaging.

(with 59 B-29s) STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (20AF): 59 B-29s, flying out of Chengtu, China, bomb an aircraft plant at Omura, Kyushu Island, Japan; several other B-29s hit alternate targets and targets of opportunity.

(with 29 B-29s) STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (20AF): 29 Chengtu, China-based B-29s bomb Omura, Kyushu Island, Japan; 20+ others bomb the last resort target of Nanking, China (due to bad weather over Omura), and 20+ more hit various alternate targets and targets of opportunity.

(with 61 B-29s) POA - PACIFIC OCEAN AREA (20AF): 61 B-29s from Chengtu, China bomb an aircraft plant at Omura, Kyushu Island, Japan; 13 B-29s bomb Shanghai, China, and several others hit alternates and targets of opportunity; the B-29s claim 27 fighters downed, the highest 20AF claim to date.

(with 36 B-29s) POA - PACIFIC OCEAN AREA (20AF): Mission 22: 36 B-29s, from the Chengtu, China area, are dispatched to hit an aircraft plant at Omura, Japan; 17 hit the primary target and 13 others hit secondary target of Shanghai, China, and another 2 strike other alternates; they claim 5-4-12 Japanese aircraft; 2 B-29s are lost.

(with 49 B-29s) POA - PACIFIC OCEAN AREA (20AF): Mission 25: 49 Chengtu, China-based B-29s are dispatched to bomb an aircraft factory at Omura, Kyushu Island, Japan; 28 hit the primary target, 13 bomb a secondary target at Nanking, China while 6 attack targets of opportunity; they claim 4-6-10 Japanese aircraft; 1 B-29 is lost. This was the XX BC's last mission against targets in Japan.

B-29s were withdrawn from airfields in China by the end of January 1945. Throughout the prior period, B-29 raids were also launched from China and India against many other targets throughout Southeast Asia, including a series of raids on Singapore and Thailand. On 2 November 1944, 55 B-29s raided Bangkok's Bang Sue marshaling yards in the largest raid of the war. Seven RTAF Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusas from Foong Bin (Air Group) 16 and 14 IJAAF Ki-43s attempted intercept. RTAF Flt Lt Therdsak Worrasap attacked a B-29, damaging it, but was shot down by return fire. One B-29 was lost, possibly the one damaged by Flt Lt Therdsak.[N 6] On 14 April 1945, a second B-29 raid on Bangkok destroyed two key power plants and was the last major attack conducted against Thai targets.[45] The B-29 effort was gradually shifted to the new bases in the Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific, with the last B-29 combat mission from India flown on 29 March 1945.

USAAF 20th Air Force

New Mariana Islands air bases

In addition to the logistical problems associated with operations from China, the B-29 could only reach a limited part of Japan while flying from Chinese bases. The solution to this problem was to capture the Mariana Islands, which would bring targets such as Tokyo, about 1,500 mi (2,400 km) north of the Marianas within range of B-29 attacks. The Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed in December 1943 to seize the Marianas.[54]

US forces invaded Saipan on 15 June 1944. Despite a Japanese naval counterattack which led to the Battle of the Philippine Sea and heavy fighting on land, Saipan was secured by 9 July.[55] Operations followed against Guam and Tinian, with all three islands secured by August.[56]

Naval construction battalions (Seabees) began at once to construct air bases suitable for the B-29, commencing even before the end of ground fighting.[55] In all, five major airfields were built: two on the flat island of Tinian, one on Saipan, and two on Guam. Each was large enough to eventually accommodate a bomb wing consisting of four bomb groups, giving a total of 180 B-29s per airfield.[44] These bases could be supplied by ship and, unlike the bases in China, were not vulnerable to attack by Japanese ground forces.

The bases became the launch sites for the large B-29 raids against Japan in the final year of the war. The first B-29 arrived on Saipan on 12 October 1944, and the first combat mission was launched from there on 28 October 1944, with 14 B-29s attacking the Truk atoll. The 73rd Bomb Wing launched the first mission against Japan from bases in the Marianas, on 24 November 1944, sending 111 B-29s to attack Tokyo. For this first attack on the Japanese capital since the Doolittle Raid in April 1942, 73rd Bomb Wing wing commander Brigadier General Emmett O'Donnell Jr. acted as mission command pilot in B-29 Dauntless Dotty.

The campaign of incendiary raids started with the bombardment of Kobe on 4 February 1945, then peaked early with the most destructive bombing raid in history (even when the later Silverplate-flown nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are considered)[57] on the night of 9–10 March 1945 on Tokyo. From then on, the raids intensified, being launched regularly until the end of the war. The attacks succeeded in devastating most large Japanese cities (with the exception of Kyoto and four that were reserved for nuclear attacks), and gravely damaged Japan's war industries. Although less publicly appreciated, the mining of Japanese ports and shipping routes (Operation Starvation) carried out by B-29s from April 1945 reduced Japan's ability to support its population and move its troops.

The atomic bombs

The most famous B-29s were the aircraft of the Silverplate series, which were modified to drop atomic bombs. The Silverplate aircraft were handpicked by Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Tibbets for the mission, directly from the assembly line at the Omaha plant that was to become Offutt Air Force Base. These Silverplate bombers differed from other B-29s then in service by having fuel injection and reversible props. Also, to make a lighter aircraft, the Silverplate B-29s were stripped of all guns, except for those on the tail. Pilot Charles Sweeney credits the reversible props for saving Bockscar after making an emergency landing on Okinawa following the Nagasaki bombing.[58]

Enola Gay, flown by Tibbets, dropped the first bomb, called Little Boy, on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.[59] Enola Gay is fully restored and on display at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, outside Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C. Bockscar, piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, dropped the second bomb, called Fat Man, on Nagasaki three days later.[60] Bockscar is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.[61]

Following the surrender of Japan, called V-J Day, B-29s were used for other purposes. A number supplied POWs with food and other necessities by dropping barrels of rations on Japanese POW camps. In September 1945, a long-distance flight was undertaken for public relations purposes: Generals Barney M. Giles, Curtis LeMay, and Emmett O'Donnell Jr. piloted three specially modified B-29s from Chitose Air Base in Hokkaidō to Chicago Municipal Airport, continuing to Washington, D.C., the farthest nonstop distance (c.6400 miles) to that date flown by U.S. Army Air Forces aircraft and the first-ever nonstop flight from Japan to Chicago.[N 7][63] Two months later, Colonel Clarence S. Irvine commanded another modified B-29, Pacusan Dreamboat, in a world-record-breaking long-distance flight from Guam to Washington, D.C., traveling 7,916 miles (12,740 km) in 35 hours,[64] with a gross takeoff weight of 155,000 pounds (70,000 kg).[65] Almost a year later, in October 1946, the same B-29 flew 9,422 miles nonstop from Oahu, Hawaii, to Cairo, Egypt, in less than 40 hours, demonstrating the possibility of routing airlines over the polar icecap.[66]

B-29s in Europe and Australia

Although considered for other theaters, and briefly evaluated in the UK, the B-29 was exclusively used in World War II in the Pacific Theatre. The use of YB-29-BW 41-36393, the so-named Hobo Queen, one of the service test aircraft flown around several British airfields in early 1944,[67] was part of a 'disinformation' program from its mention in an American-published Sternenbanner German-language propaganda leaflet from Leap Year Day in 1944, meant to be circulated within the Reich,[68] with the intent to deceive the Germans into believing that the B-29 would be deployed to Europe.[25]

American post-war military assistance programs loaned the RAF enough Superfortresses to equip several RAF Bomber Command squadrons. The aircraft was known as the Washington B.1 in RAF service and served from March 1950 until the last bombers were returned in early 1954. The phase-out was occasioned by deliveries of the English Electric Canberra bombers. Three Washingtons modified for ELINT duties and a standard bomber version used for support by No. 192 Squadron RAF were decommissioned in 1958, being replaced by de Havilland Comet aircraft.

Two British Washington B.1 aircraft were transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1952.[69] They were attached to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit and used in trials conducted on behalf of the British Ministry of Supply.[69] Both aircraft were placed in storage in 1956 and were sold for scrap in 1957.[70]

Soviet Tupolev Tu-4

At the end of WWII, Soviet development of modern four-engined heavy bombers lagged behind the west. The Petlyakov Pe-8—the sole heavy bomber operated by the Soviet Air Forces—first flew in 1936. Intended to replace the obsolete Tupolev TB-3, only 93 Pe-8s were built by the end of WWII. During 1944 and 1945, four B-29s made emergency landings in Soviet territory after bombing raids on Japanese Manchuria and Japan. In accordance with Soviet neutrality in the Pacific War, the bombers were interned by the Soviets despite American requests for their return. Rather than return the aircraft, the Soviets reverse engineered the American B-29s and used them as a pattern for the Tupolev Tu-4.[71]

On 31 July 1944, Ramp Tramp (serial number 42-6256), of the United States Army Air Force 462nd (Very Heavy) Bomb Group was diverted to Vladivostok, Russia, after an engine failed and the propeller could not be feathered.[N 8] This B-29 was part of a 100-aircraft raid against the Japanese Showa steel mill in Anshan, Manchuria.[71] On 20 August 1944, Cait Paomat (42-93829), flying from Chengdu, was damaged by anti-aircraft gunfire during a raid on the Yawata Iron Works. Due to the damage it sustained, the crew elected to divert to the Soviet Union. The aircraft crashed in the foothills of Sikhote-Alin mountain range east of Khabarovsk after the crew bailed out.

On 11 November 1944, during a night raid on Omura in Kyushu, Japan, the General H. H. Arnold Special (42-6365) was damaged and forced to divert to Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. The crew was interned.[72] On 21 November 1944, Ding Hao (42-6358) was damaged during a raid on an aircraft factory at Omura and was also forced to divert to Vladivostok.

The interned crews of these four B-29s were allowed to escape into American-occupied Iran in January 1945, but none of the B-29s were returned after Stalin ordered the Tupolev OKB to examine and copy the B-29 and produce a design ready for quantity production as soon as possible.[72][N 9]

Because aluminum in the USSR was supplied in different gauges from that available in the US (metric vs imperial),[71] the entire aircraft had to be extensively re-engineered. In addition, Tupolev substituted his own favored airfoil sections for those used by Boeing, with the Soviets themselves already having their own Wright R-1820-derived 18 cylinder radial engine, the Shvetsov ASh-73 of comparable power and displacement to the B-29's Duplex Cyclone radials available to power their design. In 1947, the Soviets debuted both the Tupolev Tu-4 (NATO ASCC code named Bull), and the Tupolev Tu-70 transport variant. The Soviets used tail-gunner positions similar to the B-29 in many later bombers and transports.[73][N 10]

Transition to USAF

Production of the B-29 was phased out after WWII, with the last example completed by Boeing's Renton factory on 28 May 1946. Many aircraft went into storage, being declared excess inventory, and were ultimately scrapped as surplus. Others remained in the active inventory and equipped the Strategic Air Command when it formed on 21 March 1946.[75] In particular, the 'Silverplate' modified aircraft of the 509th Composite Group remained the only aircraft capable of delivering the atomic bomb, and so the unit was involved in the Operation Crossroads series of tests, with B-29 Dave's Dream dropping a 'Fat Man'-type bomb in Test Able on 1 July 1946.[75]

Some B-29s, fitted with filtered air sampling scoops, were used to monitor above-ground nuclear weapons testing by the US and the USSR by sampling airborne radioactive contamination. The USAF also used the aircraft for long-range weather reconnaissance (WB-29), for signals intelligence gathering (EB-29) and photographic reconnaissance (RB-29).

Korean War and postwar service

Photo-reconnaissance B-29 that crashed on final approach to Iruma Air Base, Japan, after an attack by MiG-15 pilot Major Bordun over the Yalu River. Five crew died. The tail gunner claimed to have shot down a MiG, but both attacking MiGs returned to base (9 November 1950).[76]

The B-29 was used in 1950–53 in the Korean War. At first, the bomber was used in normal strategic day-bombing missions, though North Korea's few strategic targets and industries were quickly destroyed. More importantly, in 1950 numbers of Soviet MiG-15 jet fighters appeared over Korea, and after the loss of 28 aircraft, future B-29 raids were restricted to night missions, largely in a supply-interdiction role.

The B-29 dropped the 1,000-lb VB-3 'Razon' (a range-controllable version of the earlier Azon guided ordnance device)[77] and the 12,000 lb. VB-13 'Tarzon' MCLOS radio-controlled bombs[78] in Korea, mostly for demolishing major bridges, like the ones across the Yalu River, and for attacks on dams. The aircraft also was used for numerous leaflet drops in North Korea, such as those for Operation Moolah.[79]

Over the course of the war, B-29s flew 20,000 sorties and dropped 200,000 tonnes (180,000 tons) of bombs. B-29 gunners were credited with shooting down 27 enemy aircraft.[80] In turn 78 B-29s were lost; 57 B-29 and reconnaissance variants were lost in action and 21 were non-combat losses.[81]

Soviet records show that one MiG-15 jet fighter was shot down by a B-29 during the war. This occurred on 6 December 1950, when a B-29 shot down Lieutenant N. Serikov.[82]

With the arrival of the mammoth Convair B-36, the B-29 was reclassified as a medium bomber by the Air Force. The later B-50 Superfortress variant (initially designated B-29D) was able to handle auxiliary roles such as air-sea rescue, electronic intelligence gathering, air-to-air refueling, and weather reconnaissance.

The B-50D was replaced in its primary role during the early 1950s by the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, which in turn was replaced by the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. The final active-duty KB-50 and WB-50 variants were phased out in the mid-1960s, with the final example retired in 1965. A total of 3,970 B-29s were built.


The variants of the B-29 were outwardly similar in appearance but were built around different wing center sections that affected the wingspan dimensions. The wing of the Renton-built B-29A-BN used a different subassembly process and was a foot longer in span. The Georgia-built B-29B-BA weighed less through armament reduction. A planned C series with more reliable R-3350s was not built.

Moreover, engine packages changed, including the type of propellers and range of the variable pitch. A notable example was the eventual 65 airframes (up to 1947's end) for the Silverplate and successor-name 'Saddletree' specifications built for the Manhattan Project with Curtiss Electric reversible pitch propellers.

The other differences came through added equipment for varied mission roles. These roles included cargo carriers (CB); rescue aircraft (SB); weather ships (WB); and trainers (TB); and aerial tankers (KB).

Some were used for odd purposes such as flying relay television transmitters under the name of Stratovision.

Another role was as a mothership. This included being rigged for carrying the experimental parasite fighter aircraft, such as the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin and Republic F-84 Thunderjets as in flight lock on and offs. It was also used to develop the Airborne Early Warning program; it was the ancestor of various modern radar picket aircraft. A B-29 with the original Wright Duplex Cyclone powerplants was used to air-launch the Bell X-1 supersonic research rocket aircraft, as well as Cherokee rockets for the testing of ejection seats.[83]

Some B-29s were modified to act as testbeds for various new systems or special conditions, including fire-control systems, cold-weather operations, and various armament configurations. Several converted B-29s were used to experiment with aerial refueling and re-designated as KB-29s. Perhaps the most important tests were conducted by the XB-29G. It carried prototype jet engines in its bomb bay, and lowered them into the air stream to conduct measurements.


Royal Australian Air Force (two former RAF aircraft for trials)

United Kingdom
Royal Air Force (87 loaned from the USAF as the Washington B.1)

United States
United States Army Air Forces; United States Air Force; United States Navy (four former USAF aircraft designated as P2B patrol bombers)

Soviet Union
Soviet Air Forces (three USAAF B-29s made emergency landings in the USSR during WWII, and were never returned; they were reverse-engineered to make the Soviet Tupolev Tu-4 'Bull' bomber.)

Surviving aircraft

Twenty-two B-29s are preserved at various museums worldwide, including two flying examples; FIFI, which belongs to the Commemorative Air Force, and Doc, which belongs to Doc's Friends. Doc made its first flight in 60 years from Wichita, Kansas, on 17 July 2016.[84] There are also four complete airframes either in storage or under restoration, eight partial airframes in storage or under restoration, and four known wreck sites.

Three of the Silverplate B-29s modified to drop nuclear bombs survive. The Enola Gay (nose number 82), which dropped the first atomic bomb, was fully restored and placed on display at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air & Space Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport in 2003. The B-29 that dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki, Bockscar (nose number 77), is restored and on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. The third is the 15th Silverplate to be delivered, on the last day of the war in the Pacific. It is on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, New Mexico, posed with a replica of the Mark-3 'Fat Man' nuclear bomb.

Only two of the 22 museum aircraft are outside the United States: It's Hawg Wild at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and another at the KAI Aerospace Museum in Sachon, South Korea.[85]

Accidents and incidents

Accidents and incidents involving B-29s include:

The Friday evening 10 November 1944 crash of a B-29 near Clovis, New Mexico. All 15 members of the crew were killed.

12 June 1946 a B-29 crashed into Clingmans Dome in Tennessee killing the entire crew of twelve.[86]

The 1947 crash of the Kee Bird in Greenland during a flight to the geographic North Pole,[87] and its subsequent destruction in 1995 during a recovery attempt.[88]

The 1948 Waycross B-29 crash, which resulted in the United States v. Reynolds lawsuit regarding state secrets privilege

The 1948 Lake Mead Boeing B-29 crash.

The 3 November 1948 crash at Bleaklow moor near Glossop, Derbyshire, England. All 13 crew onboard were killed. Much of the wreckage is still exposed and can be reached by a 2 mile walk from the summit of Snake Pass, starting along the Pennine Way footpath through Devil's Dyke.[89]

On 11 April 1950 a B-29 departed Kirtland Air Force Base at 9:38 PM and crashed into a mountain on Manzano Base approximately three minutes later, killing the crew. Detonators were installed in the nuclear bomb on the aircraft. The bomb case was demolished and some high-explosive (HE) material burned in the gasoline fire. Other pieces of unburned HE were scattered throughout the wreckage. Four spare detonators in their carrying case were recovered undamaged. There were no contamination or recovery problems. The recovered components were returned to the Atomic Energy Commission.[90] Both the weapon and the capsule of nuclear material were on board the aircraft but the capsule was not inserted in the bomb for safety reasons, so a nuclear detonation was not possible.[91]

On 5 August 1950 a bomb-laden B-29 Superfortress crashed into a residential area in California; 17 were killed and 68 injured[92]

The 1953 'Tip Tow' crash, Peconic Bay, New York State.[93]

Specifications Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Data from Quest for Performance[94]

General characteristics

Crew: 11 (Pilot, Co-pilot, Bombardier, Flight Engineer, Navigator, Radio Operator, Radar Observer, Right Gunner, Left Gunner, Central Fire Control, Tail Gunner)
Length: 99 ft 0 in (30.18 m)
Wingspan: 141 ft 3 in (43.05 m)
Height: 27 ft 9 in (8.46 m)
Wing area: 1,736 sq ft (161.3 m2)
Aspect ratio: 11.5
Airfoil: root: Boeing 117 (22%); tip: Boeing 117 (9%)[95]
Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0241
Frontal area: 41.16 sq ft (3.824 m2)
Empty weight: 74,500 lb (33,793 kg)
Gross weight: 120,000 lb (54,431 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 133,500 lb (60,555 kg)
135,000 lb (61,000 kg) combat overload
Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-3350-23 Duplex-Cyclone 18-cylinder air-cooled turbosupercharged radial piston engines, 2,200 hp (1,600 kW) each
Propellers: 4-bladed constant-speed fully-feathering propellers, 16 ft 7 in (5.05 m) diameter


Maximum speed: 357 mph (575 km/h, 310 kn)
Cruise speed: 220 mph (350 km/h, 190 kn)
Stall speed: 105 mph (169 km/h, 91 kn)
Range: 3,250 mi (5,230 km, 2,820 nmi)
Ferry range: 5,600 mi (9,000 km, 4,900 nmi)
Service ceiling: 31,850 ft (9,710 m) [28]
Rate of climb: 900 ft/min (4.6 m/s)
Lift-to-drag: 16.8
Wing loading: 69.12 lb/sq ft (337.5 kg/m2)
Power/mass: 0.073 hp/lb (0.120 kW/kg)


10× .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning M2/ANs in remote-controlled turrets.[96] (omitted from Silverplate B-29s)
2× .50 BMG and 1× 20 mm M2 cannon in tail position (the cannon was later removed)[N 11]
Bombs: [97]
5,000 lb (2,300 kg) over 1,600 mi (2,600 km; 1,400 nmi) radius at high altitude
12,000 lb (5,400 kg) over 1,600 mi (2,600 km; 1,400 nmi) radius at medium altitude
20,000 lb (9,100 kg) maximum over short distances at low altitude
Could be modified to carry two 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) Grand Slam bombs externally.[97]
The Silverplate version delivered the first atomic bombs.


not known

 Flight Simulators

   IL-2 Sturmovik 'Cliff's of Dover' Blitz - has no 3D model

   IL-2 Great Battles Series IL-2 - has no 3D model

   DCS World - has no 3D model



 Royal Air Force Debden Map

 Moscow Russia Map


    Boeing B-29 Superfortress Operator Notes

  1. During World War II, this aircraft dropped the second Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945 while assigned to the 509th Composite Group, 393d Bombardment Squadron. The aircraft remained in service with the 509th Bombardment Group until 11 September 1946. It is now on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
  2. Baugher - Boeing YB-29 Superfortress
  3. USAFHRA - 58th Air Division
  4. USAF serial number search, B-29
  5. Air Force Weather Agency
  6. Eielson Lady of the lake Archived 2012-02-08 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Lloyd, B-29 Superfortress. Part 2
  8. Lloyd, B-29 Superfortress. Part 2, p.68
  9. Nowicki, B-29 Superfortress, p.16
  10. A76 Boeing Washington RAAF Museum. Accessed on 14 August 2007.

    Boeing B-29 Superfortress Notes

  1. As efforts were made to eradicate the problems a succession of engine models were fitted to B-29s. B-29 production started with the −23, which were all modified to the 'war engine' −23A. Other versions were −41 (B-29A), −57, −59.
  2. The forward upper turret's armament was later doubled to four .50 Brownings.
  3. The nose sighting station was operated by the bombardier
  4. Boeing had previously built the 307 Stratoliner, which was the first commercial airliner with a fully pressurized cabin. Only 10 of these aircraft were built. While other aircraft such as the Ju 86P were pressurized, the B-29 was designed from the outset with a pressurized system.
  5. The suffix −1-BW indicates that this B-29 was from the first production batch of B-29s manufactured at the Boeing, Wichita plant. Other suffixes are BA = Bell, Atlanta; BN = Boeing, Renton, Washington; MO = Martin, Omaha, Nebraska.[48]
  6. The biggest raid on Bangkok during the war occurred on 2 November 1944, when the marshaling yards at Bang Sue were raided by 55 B-29s ...[53]
  7. 'The straight line distance between Chitose Japanese Air Self Defense Force and Chicago, Chicago Midway Airport is approximately 5,839 miles or 9,397 kilometers.'[62]
  8. The drag of the windmilling propeller critically reduced the range of the B-29. Because of this 'Ramp Tramp' was unable to reach home base at Chengdu, China, and the pilot opted to head for Vladivostok.
  9. Ramp Tramp was also used during 1948–49 as a drop ship for underwing launching of 346P glider. The 346P was a development of the German DFS 346 rocket-powered aircraft. The complete wing and engines of Cait Paomat were later incorporated into the sole Tupolev Tu-70 transport aircraft.
  10. The Soviets interned another B-29 when, on 29 August 1945, a Soviet Air Force Yak-9 damaged a B-29 dropping supplies to a POW camp in Korea, and forced it to land at Konan (now Hŭngnam), North Korea. The 13-man crew of the B-29 was not injured in the attack and was released after being interned for 13 days.[74]
  11. For the B-29B-BW all armament and sighting equipment was removed except for tail position; initially 2 x .50 in M2/AN and 1× 20 mm M2 cannon, later 3 × 2 x .50 in M2/AN with APG-15 gun-laying radar fitted as standard.

    Boeing B-29 Superfortress Citations

  1. LeMay and Yenne 1988, p. 60.
  2. 'Boeing B-29.' Boeing.
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    Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bibliography:

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  • Anderton, David A. B-29 Superfortress at War. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-7110-0881-7.
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  • Birdsall, Steve. Saga of the Superfortress: The Dramatic Story of the B-29 and the Twentieth Air Force. London: Sidgewick & Jackson Limited, 1991. ISBN 0-283-98786-3.
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  • Campbell, Richard H., The Silverplate Bombers: A History and Registry of the Enola Gay and Other B-29s Configured to Carry Atomic Bombs. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-7864-2139-8.
  • Chant, Christopher. Superprofile: B-29 Superfortress. Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing Group, 1983. ISBN 0-85429-339-6.
  • Clarke, Chris. 'The Cannons on the B-29 Bomber Were a Mid-Century Engineering Masterpiece', Popular Mechanics, 30 November 2015.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces In World War II: Volume One: Plans and Early Operations: January 1939 to August 1942. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1983.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces In World War II: Volume Two: Europe: Torch to Pointblank August 1942 to December 1943 Archived 23 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1983.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces In World War II: Volume Five: The Pacific: Matterhorn to Nagasaki June 1944 to August 1945. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1983.
  • Davis, Larry. B-29 Superfortress in Action (Aircraft in Action 165). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89747-370-1.
  • Dear, I.C.B. and M.R.D. Foo, eds. The Oxford Companion of World War II. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-19-866225-4.
  • Dorr, Robert F. B-29 Superfortress Units in World War Two. Combat Aircraft 33. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-285-7.
  • Dorr, Robert F. B-29 Superfortress Units of the Korean War. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-84176-654-2.
  • Fopp, Michael A. The Washington File. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1983. ISBN 0-85130-106-1.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
  • Futrell R.F. et al. Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia, 1965–1973. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1976. ISBN 0-89875-884-X.
  • Grant, R.G. and John R. Dailey. Flight: 100 Years of Aviation. Harlow, Essex, UK: DK Adult, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7566-1902-2.
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  • Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II. New York: Random House, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  • Hess, William N. Great American Bombers of WW II. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1999. ISBN 0-7603-0650-8.
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  • Howlett, Chris. 'Washington Times'.
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982–1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1985.
  • Johnsen, Frederick A. The B-29 Book. Tacoma, Washington: Bomber Books, 1978. ISBN 1-135-76473-5.
  • Johnson, Robert E. 'Why the Boeing B-29 Bomber, and Why the Wright R-3350 Engine?' American Aviation Historical Society Journal, 33(3), 1988, pp. 174–189. ISSN 0002-7553.
  • Knaack, Marcelle Size. Post-World War II Bombers, 1945–1973. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1988. ISBN 0-16-002260-6.
  • LeMay, Curtis and Bill Yenne. Super Fortress. London: Berkley Books, 1988. ISBN 0-425-11880-0.
  • Lewis, Peter M. H., ed. 'B-29 Superfortress'. Academic American Encyclopedia. Volume 10. Chicago: Grolier Incorporated, 1994. ISBN 978-0-7172-2053-3.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-29 Superfortress, Part 1. Production Versions (Detail & Scale 10). Fallbrook, California/London: Aero Publishers/Arms & Armour Press, Ltd., 1983. ISBN 0-8168-5019-4, 0-85368-527-4.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-29 Superfortress. Part 2. Derivatives (Detail & Scale 25). Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania/London: TAB Books/Arms & Armour Press, Ltd., 1987. ISBN 0-8306-8035-7, 0-85368-839-7
  • Mann, Robert A. The B-29 Superfortress: A Comprehensive Registry of the Planes and Their Missions. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2004. ISBN 0-7864-1787-0.
  • Mann, Robert A. The B-29 Superfortress Chronology, 1934–1960. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009. ISBN 0-7864-4274-3.
  • Marshall, Chester. Warbird History: B-29 Superfortress. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1993. ISBN 0-87938-785-8.
  • Mayborn, Mitch. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress (Aircraft in Profile 101). Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1971 (reprint).
  • Miller, Jay. 'Tip Tow & Tom-Tom'. Air Enthusiast, No. 9, February–May 1979, pp. 40–42. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Nijboer, Donald. B-29 Superfortress vs Ki-44 'Tojo': Pacific Theater 1944–45 (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017).
  • Nijboer, Donald, and Steve Pace. B-29 Combat Missions: First-hand Accounts of Superfortress Operations Over the Pacific and Korea (Metro Books, 2011).
  • Nowicki, Jacek. B-29 Superfortress (Monografie Lotnicze 13) (in Polish). Gdańsk, Poland: AJ-Press, 1994. ISBN 83-86208-09-0.
  • Pace, Steve. Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, United Kingdom: Crowood Press, 2003. ISBN 1-86126-581-6.
  • Peacock, Lindsay. 'Boeing B-29... First of the Superbombers, Part One.' Air International, August 1989, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 68–76, 87. ISSN 0306-5634
  • Peacock, Lindsay. 'Boeing B-29... First of the Superbombers, Part Two.' Air International, September 1989, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 141–144, 150–151. ISSN 0306-5634
  • Pimlott, John. B-29 Superfortress. London: Bison Books Ltd., 1980. ISBN 0-89009-319-9.
  • Rigmant, Vladimir. B-29, Tу-4 – стратегические близнецы – как это было (Авиация и космонавтика 17 [Крылья 4]) (in Russian). Moscow: 1996.
  • Toh, Boon Kwan. 'Black and Silver: Perceptions and Memories of the B-29 Bomber, American Strategic Bombing and the Longest Bombing Missions of the Second World War on Singapore' War & Society 39#2 (2020) pp. 109–125
  • Vander Meulen, Jacob. Building the B-29. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 1995. ISBN 1-56098-609-3.
  • Wegg, John. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors. London: Putnam, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-833-X.
  • Wheeler, Barry C. The Hamlyn Guide to Military Aircraft Markings. London: Chancellor Press, 1992. ISBN 1-85152-582-3.
  • Wheeler, Keith. Bombers over Japan. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1982. ISBN 0-8094-3429-6.
  • White, Jerry. Combat Crew and Unit Training in the AAF 1939–1945. USAF Historical Study No. 61. Washington, D.C.: Center for Air Force History, 1949.
  • Williams, Anthony G. and Emmanuel Gustin. Flying Guns World War II: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations 1933–45. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 2003. ISBN 1-84037-227-3.
  • Willis, David. 'Boeing B-29 and B-50 Superfortress'. International Air Power Review, Volume 22, 2007, pp. 136–169. Westport, Connecticut: AIRtime Publishing. ISSN 1473-9917. ISBN 1-880588-79-X.
  • Wolf, William. Boeing B-29 Superfortress: The Ultimate Look. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-7643-2257-5.

    Boeing B-29 Superfortress operators Citations:

  • Birdsall, Steve. B-29 Superfortress in Action (Aircraft in Action 31). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1977. ISBN 0-89747-030-3.
  • Davis, Larry. B-29 Superfortress in Action (Aircraft in Action 165). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89747-370-1.
  • Dorr, Robert F. B-29 Superfortress Units in World War Two (Combat Aircraft 33). Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-285-7.
  • Fopp, Michael A. The Washington File. Tonbridge, kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1983.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-29 Superfortress. Part 1. Production Versions (Detail & Scale 10). Fallbrook, CA/London: Aero Publishers/Arms & Armour Press, Ltd., 1983. ISBN 0-8168-5019-4 (USA). ISBN 0-85368-527-4 (UK).
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-29 Superfortress. Part 2. Derivatives (Detail & Scale 25). Blue Ridge Summit, PA/London: TAB Books/Arms & Armour Press, Ltd., 1987. ISBN 0-8306-8035-7 (USA). ISBN 0-85368-839-7 (UK).
  • Mayborn, Mitch. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress (aircraft in Profile 101). Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1971 (reprint).
  • Nowicki, Jacek. B-29 Superfortress (Monografie Lotnicze 13) (in Polish). Gdańsk, Poland: AJ-Press, 1994. ISBN 83-86208-09-0.
  • Pimlott, John. 'B-29 Superfortress. London: Bison Books Ltd., 1980. ISBN 0-89009-319-9.
  • Rigmant, Vladimir. B-29, Tу-4 - стратегические близнецы - как это было (Авиация и космонавтика 17 (Крылья 4)). Moscow, Russia, 1996.

    Magazine References: +

  • Airfix Magazines (English) -
  • Avions (French) -
  • FlyPast (English) -
  • Flugzeug Publikations GmbH (German) -
  • Flugzeug Classic (German) -
  • Klassiker (German) -
  • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) -
  • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) -
  • Osprey (English) -
  • Revi Magazines (Czech) -

    Web References: +

  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

This webpage was updated 11th August 2022