B-29 Superfortress

US long-range and high-altitude heavy bomber B-29 Superfortress from Boeing.
History, development, service, specifications, pictures and 3D model.

first production B-29s
The first production B-29s were painted, but this was soon abandoned, because they were too fast and flying too high for the Japanese interceptors.

Boeing Model 345 B-29 Superfortress
High-altitude heavy long-range and atomic bomber.


mushroom cloud over Hiroshima
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. Unlike the inhabitants of other Japanese cities, the Americans have not warned there of an attack and so the atomic age begins with the death of 100,000 people.

The atomic age began at 9:15 hours and 30 seconds local time on August 6, 1945, in the sky over Hiroshima, Japan. At that moment a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the ‘Enola Gay’ piloted by Colonel Paul W Tibbets and flying at 330 mph (528 km/hr) at an altitude of more than 30,000ft (9,630 m), dropped a cylin­drical bomb almost 11 ft (3.27 m) in length, two and a half feet in diameter and containing just over 130 pounds (62 kg) of Uranium 235.
This was the first atomic bomb. ‘Little Boy’, as the bomb was christened, exploded at an altitude of 800 ft (244 m) and deva­stated the city of Hiroshima. Some 70,000 people were killed, and as many injured. Three days later another B-29, the ‘Boxcar’, dropped it second atomic hbmb on Nagasaki. The Second World War was all but over.

The Superfortress’ name will al­ways be associated with these two missions. But the large, modern four-engined aircraft also left other marks on aviation history, going down as the best strategic bomber of the war.
A total of 3,970 Boeing B-29s were built, of which 2,000 were delivered between 1943 and 1945. B-29s were also opera­tional in the Korean War and the type was not retired from service until the late 1950s. And, oddly enough, it was the B-29 that re-established a balance of strategic air power between the USSR and America during the Cold War. Three Superfortress bombers went down in Soviet territory in 1944, and after the war the Russians developed a whole series of long-range bombers from these three aircraft. The first Russian models, designated Tu-4, were identi­cal to the B-29.

Development and mass production of the Boeing Model 345, later named B-29 Superfortress, was one of the biggest tasks in the history of aviation. This history began in 1937, when the XB-15 (Boeing Model 294) appeared. Four years earlier the USAAC had asked for a strategic bomber that could carry 2,000 pounds (907 kg) of bombs a distance of 5,000 miles (8,000 km). This aircraft never got beyond the prototype stage, but Boeing’s engineers derived several ex­perimental projects from it. These were developed early in 1940, when the Army Air Corps again issued specifi­cations for a long-range bomber.

This new aircraft, the Model 345, was submitted alongside Consolidated, Douglas and Lockheed designs, and the Boeing bid was accepted. On August 24, 1940, two prototypes were ordered, followed by a third and a static-test airframe in December.
As the war grew in intensity, this program was given maximum priority. In January 1942 the military authorities ordered 14 YB-29 pre-production air­craft, followed immediately after by orders for 500 production machines. In September 1942 1,000 more were ordered.

The first prototype took to the air on September 21, 1942, with Eddie Allen at the controls. The second prototype first flew on December 28, but on February 18, 1943, this aircraft crashed on landing after fire broke out in an engine. All eleven Boeing flight-test staff aboard were killed.

The B-29 was a large mid-wing monoplane with a circular-section fuselage. Fully pressurized except for the bomb bay, it was powered by four 2,200 hp Wright Cyclone radial en­gines with turbo-superchargers. Defen­sive armament consisted of ten heavy machine guns and one 20 mm cannon installed in four remotely controlled turrets and on a manual mounting in the tail. Later models of the B-29 had a forward dorsal turret with four 12.7 mm machine guns.

In February 1942, while the pre-production models were being built and Boeing engineers worked night and day on the huge technical problems, the company prepared a vast production plan under which the bomber would also be built by Bell, North American and Fisher (General Motors) and Martin under license.
Martin came in later and by VJ-day more than 3,000 Superfortress had been delivered. This was a fantastic achievement because each represented five or six times the technical effort of any earlier bomber. In engine power, gross weight, wing loading, pressurization, armament airborne systems and even basic structure the B-29 set a wholly new standard.

B-29 dropping bombs
Boeing B-29 Superfortress dropping bombs on their targets.

Meanwhile, the 58th Very Heavy Bombardment Wing became the first unit to use the new strategic bomber.
Late in 1943 it was decided not to employ the Superfortresses in Europe but to concentrate them in the Pacific, where the 20th Bomber Command was ready to attack Japanese objectives from bases in India and China. The first aircraft reached these bases in the spring of 1944, and the first strategic mission set out for Bangkok on June 5.

Ten days later a B-29 force carried out the first strategic bombing mission against Japanese territory. That summer five other bases were readied in the Marianas: two in Guam, two in Tinian and one in Saipan. It was from these bases that the Superfortresses took off on their most devastating missions. The first raid on Tokyo took place on Novem­ber 24, 1944. By 1945 20 groups from the Marianas were sending 500 B-29s at a time to flatten and burn Japan’s cities.
Until August 6, 1945, the B-29s specialized in incendiary raids, first by day and then at night and at low altitude. There was little that Japanese fighters could do against them, and among the cities bombed by the B-29s were Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe.

The B-29C had all guns except those in the tail removed, increasing speed and altitude. After the war there were 19 variants of B-29, not including the Washington B.I supplied to help the RAF in 1950 to 1958.

Users: USAAF.

Pictures about B-29 Superfortress

Specifications for Boeing B-29 Superfortress


Boeing B-29 Superfortressspecification
Typelong-range and high-altitude heavy bomber
Power plant 4 x 2,200hp Wright R-3350-23 Duplex Cyclone 18-cylinder radials each with two exhaust-driven turbochargers
Accommodation10 - 14
Wing span141 ft 3 in
Length overall99 ft
Height overall27 ft 9 in
Weight empty 74,500 lb
Weight loaded 135,000 lb
Max level speed 357 mph at 30,000 ft
Cruising speed 290 mph
Climb to 25,000 ft 43 mins
Service ceiling 36,000 ft
Range 3,250 miles (with 10,000 lb bomb load)


Boeing B-29 Superfortressspecification
Turrets Four GE twin-0.50 in machine guns (1100 rpm, velocity 2500 ft.sec) in turrets above and below, sighted from nose or three waist sighting stations
Bell tail turret with own gunner and one 20mm cannon (800 rpm, velocity 2750 ft.sec])and twin 0.50in MG
Bomb load Internal up to 20,000 lb. With modifications carried one nuclear bomb or two 22,000 lb bombs externally under inner wings

Service statistics:

Boeing B-29 Superfortressfigures
First flight (prototype)21 September 1942
Pre-production YB-2926 June 1943
Service deliveryJuly 1943
First combat mission5 June 1944
Termination of productionMay 1946
Total production figure 3,970

Animated 3D model of B-29 Superfortress

References and literature

Combat Aircraft of World War II (Bill Gunston)
Technik und Einsatz der Kampfflugzeuge vom 1. Weltkrieg bis heute (Ian Parsons)
Das große Buch der Luftkämpfe (Ian Parsons)
Luftkrieg (Piekalkiewicz)
Flugzeuge des 2. Weltkrieges (Andrew Kershaw)
World Aircraft World War II (Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)

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2 thoughts on “B-29 Superfortress”

  1. R. L. Hails Sr. P.E. (Ret.)

    I recommend a rare history, The Bell Bomber Plant, Joe Kirby, Arcadia Publishing. The plant in Marietta Georgia, near Atlanta, produced 668 B – 29s during the war, two per day at maximum output. It was one of three Boeing plants and one Martin plant. Bell Bomber employed roughly 28,000 men and women who worked in buildings totaling 4,200,000 Sq. Ft. Many were farmers who proved to be superb in working with machines somewhat more complicated than a tractor. The plane even used a crude computer to control its massive firepower of 50 cal. machine guns, in the 1940s! A million aspects were enormous advances in technology, performed on a crushing war schedule.
    One B – 29 is on display at the Udvar Hazy museum at Dulles airport Virginia.

  2. Of the three B29’s used by the USSR to build a copy, the one chosen for pattern had 3 patches where AAA damage had been repaired. So great was the fear of Stalin that every Tu4 Bull had those three patches lest “The Boss” think he was not obeyed!

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