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The B-17 Flying Fortress is a heavy bomber designed by the Boeing Corperation that was used by the United States during World War II. The first production model of the B-17 series was the B-17B model. It had a crew of ten and four 1,200 hp, Wright R-1820-65 Engines capable of propelling the B-17 at speeds of up to 462 km/h. The range was slightly over 3,200 km and it had a payload of aproximantly 2,700 kg. Equiped with seven .50 M2 Browning Machine Guns it could prove a dangerous adversary to opposing forces. An icon for its durability, the B-17 was used extensively used during World War II. However, it was quickly replace post-war due to multiple new advances in technology.
The B-17 was developed in response to a 1934 Army Air Corps specification[N 1] for a multi engined anti-shipping bomber. It was designed for strategic bombing against Germany and was used, although to a significantly lesser extent, in the Pacific Theater due to it being replaced by the B-29 Superfortress. Construction of the first prototype began on August 16 1934 under the designation Model 299. The design was equipped with a wing spanning 103ft 9in which carried four 750hp Pratt and Whitney Hornet R-1690-E nine cylinder radials. As a company owned aircraft, the B-299 was allocated the civil registration X-13372. The first flight was carried out by L. R. Tower on July 28th 1935, immediately demonstrating the superiority of it's conception.
After a short period of factory testing, the aircraft was flown 2,100 miles non stop to Wright Field for evaluation by the Army Air Corps, where is demonstrated a max speed between 200mph-250mph at 10,000ft, an operating speed of 170mph-200mph, service ceiling of between 20,000ft-25,000ft and endurance of between about 6 and 10 hours.
The first examples of the B-17 to be used for combat missions were the twenty B-17C Fortress Mk I aircraft supplied to 90 Squadron RAF in May 1941, with operations commencing on July 8th. Despite losses, the squadron had completed twenty-two attacks by September, before European operations were abandoned. Four of the Fortress Mk Is were sent to the Middle East, carrying out night attacks until May 1942. The remaining Fortress Mk Is in Europe were transferred to Coastal Command, carrying out maritime reconnaissance missions from Benbecula with 206 and 220 Squadrons. In July 1942, a single Fortress Mk I made it's way to India, where it was taken into US service. 
Use by Axis forcesEdit
Boeing Designation: Model 299E - later 299M. Thirty nine examples ordered after successful testing of YiB-17 and Y1B-17A prototypes. Wright R-1820-51 engines with exhaust driven superchargers.  First flown 27 June 1939. Delivered between 29 July 1939 and 30 March 1940.
B-17C (Fortress Mk I)Edit
Boeing designation - Model 299H (USAAC) Model 299T (RAF).  Wright R-1820-65 engines. Gun armament increased from five to seven 0.3in weapons. Side blisters replaced with plain openings. Up to twenty  ferried to UK for combat evaluation with 90 Squadron, RAF. Surviving aircraft upgraded to B-17D configuration.
B-17C with self sealing tanks and armour protection for the crew.
B-17E (Fortress Mk IIA)Edit
Boeing Designation Model 299O. Extensive redesign with new tail assembly, consisting of extended dorsal fin, wider span tailplanes and a manually operated turret in tail with two 0.5in machine guns. Two 0.3 in guns retained in nose, with all other 0.3in guns replaced by 0.5 in guns - two in a Bendix turret behind the cockpit, two in the radio compartment, one on each side of the aft fuselage and two in a ventral ball turret just aft of the wing.[N 2] Standard crew increased from 9 to 10 men. All up weight was 54,000lb, and max speed was 317mph. 
The first B-17E flew on September 5 1941.
In Mid 1942, Forty five examples were passed to RAF Coastal Command, who designated the type as the Fortress IIA. One aircraft, serial FK185, had the normal transparent nose fairing replaced with a Bristol B/16 turret housing a 40mm Vickers 'S' gun for use against surfaced submarines. The gun had azimuth traverse of 30 degrees and elevation of 40 degrees.
Single B-17E (41-2593) converted into personnel transport aircraft for use by General Douglas MacArthur. All armour was removed, as well as all except nose and tail guns. Extra windows were fitted. The interior was arranged with office and living space.
Single B-17E (41-2595) modified to carry heavy freight loads, and fitted with a large cargo door in the port fuselage, in order to test the concept of converting obsolescent bomber aircraft into air freighters. Gross weight 49,000lb. 
B-17F (Fortress Mk II)Edit
B-17F modified for Photographic Reconnaissance. Three cameras installed in the nose, and additional fuel tanks in the bomb bay. First conversion made by United Air Lines Modification Center at Cheyenne, Ohio, in January 1942.
Special executive version of B-17F with de-luxe furnishings. Some defensive armament retained.
B-17G (Fortress Mk III)Edit
Unarmed B-17Gs used for transport duty in Europe.
- ↑ Dubbed Project A, this called for an aircraft with a range of 5,000 miles while carrying a bombload of 2,000lbs at 200mph. 
- ↑ This was quickly brought in to replace the remotely sighted power operated turret originally fitted. 
- ↑ http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=79
- ↑ Green, William. Famous Bombers. Page 44.
- ↑ Gunston, Bill. Directory Page 340.
- ↑ Green, William. Famous Bombers. Page 45.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Green, William. Famous Bombers. Page 49.
- ↑ Green, William. Famous Bombers. Page 50.
- ↑ Gunston, Bill. M&S Page 23
- ↑ Green, William. Famous Bombers. Pages 57-58.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Bridgeman, Leonard. 1945/46 (1998). Page 210.
- ↑ Green, William. Famous Bombers. Page 52.
- ↑ Green, William. Famous Bombers. Page 53.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Green, William. Famous Bombers. Page 54.
- Bridgeman, Leonard. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1945/46 (Printed at Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War 2 1998).
- Green, William. Famous Bombers of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services 1975
- Gunston, Bill. St Michael Aircraft of World War 2. Octopuss Books.
- Gunston, Bill. Illustrated Directory of Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Salamander Books. (1988), Page 340. ISBN 0-86101-390-5