Today I'd like to present you the Queen of the Skies: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.
Born as a result of USAAC request for a Martin B-10 replacement, it first flew on 28 July 1935. Few months later the prototype Model 299 crashed and eventually the contract went to Douglas' smaller and cheaper B-18, but military was sufficiently impressed with the 'Flying Fortress', as the journalists named it, they ordered 13 aircraft for 'operational testing', designated Y1B-17 (plus one for static testing, that eventually become a flying testbed as Y1B-17A). Eventually further - albeit small - orders followed for subsequent improved versions: 39 B-17B in 1939, 38 B-17C in 1940 and 42 B-17D in early 1941. At that point experiences from the aircraft's use led to major redesign and creation of the "big tail" versions, that enjoyed much larger production run, beginning with B-17E of which 512 made from late 1941. USA entry into World War 2 led to huge expansion of aircraft production (which was already increasing from 1939) and in 1942 B-17F entered production lines, with 3405 being made before being superseded by B-17G in second half of 1943, that last being most-produced version with 8680 being made (for a grand total of 12371). During the war, Flying Fortress was USAAF's most famous heavy bomber (albeit not the most-produced: that distinction goes to B-24 Liberator), equipping 42 operational Bombardment Groups (although not simultaneously): 5 in the Pacific Theater of Operations (5th, 7th and 13th Air Forces), 3 in the Caribbean (6th Air Force), 7 in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (12th and later 15th Air Forces) and 28 in European Theater of Operations (8th Air Force - one of these groups transferred eventually to MTO) where it's service is most remembered today. Besides the "basic" bomber versions (which underwent numerous modifications during their production run), a number of more special variants was created, like XB-38 with inline engines, XB/YB-40 heavy escort, transport conversions (designated C-108/CB-17/VB-17 - although some war-weary bombers were just stripped of armament and used as crudely-adapted transports without any changes in designations), reconnaissance (F-9 and later RB-17), search and rescue (SB-17), while some others were used as testbeds for armaments and special equipment and even as flying bombs. After the war B-17's rapidly left front-line units, replaced there by much more capable B-29 Superfortress, but for number of years they remained in support roles - SAR, aerial mapping, transport/communications, airborne early warning (in the US Navy as PB-1) as well as flying testbed and finally as drone (which was the type's last operational role in USAF until late 1950s). Number of B-17 made it post-war to the civilian market, being used as executive aircraft, cargo transports, for aerial mapping and most famously - as fire bombers.
(Note: please take into consideration, that some versions, particularly tesbeds, are represented by rather few drawings and had to be made entirely from photographs, therefore I'm afraid that I can't guarantee their accuracy)
Boeing Model 299 B-17 Flying Fortress / XB-38 / XB-40 / YB-40 / PB-1
Great Britain happened to be the only foreign operator of "factory fresh" B-17's (all others acquired their Fortresses second-hand, one way or another). Already in 1940 20 B-17C (designated Fortress Mk. I) were acquired in RAF, which hoped they could be used as very-high altitude daylight bombers - both from UK and Egyptian bases. Relative technical immaturity of these aircraft coupled with poor tactics led to their high attrition and whole experiment being deemed a failure. On the other hand, surviving aircraft were found to be more promising as long-range maritime patrol aircraft and were duly transferred to that role (with exception of 2 last Egypt-based planes which were transferred back to US custody where they served as trainers). Therefore all further British B-17 orders were made with Coastal Command in mind. Next ordered was B-17F (as Fortress Mk. II), but because of the high demand for them in the USAAF, instead 45 older B-17E were delivered first (as Fortress Mk. IIA), followed eventually by 19 planes from 'original' Mk. II order. Finally, well over a 100+ of B-17G (Fortress Mk. III) were delivered, but by then the demand for these aircraft in Coastal Command was diminishing (largely replaced by Liberators) and only 3 were actually operated in patrol role, with some more used for weather reconnaissance and as electronic warfare platforms by Bomber Command, with majority of them never being operationally used.
Japan captured a number of B-17's in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies. Most of them were heavily damaged, but at least 3 (1 B-17D and 2 B-17E) were made flyable and heavily trialled in Japan.
Of the large number of B-17's downed over Germany or occupied territories, at least some 40 were captured in a relatively "in one piece" condition, some 12 were eventually made flyable. Initially mostly for evaluation and for training of fighter pilots in attacking them, several were eventually operated by Kampfgeschwader 200 for covert agent insertion flights.
Beginning in 1943, damaged USAAF B-17's landed in neutral Sweden, where they were interned. Eventually 9 of these (in practically intact condition) were formally transferred to Swedish ownership in return for return of some 300 US airmen. Swedes converted these planes into long-range passenger aircraft, particularly for service on dangerous route to Great Britain (on which a number of airliners was already lost). They served until 1948 when they were replaced by newer designs.
Starting from August 1943 a number of B-17's force-landed also in neutral Switzerland. Although this Alpine country never formally operated them, some 9 of them were given Swiss markings and used for evaluation and training flights.
Canada received 6 war-weary B-17E and B-17F's in late 1943 and early 1944 for use as trans-Atlantic mailplanes with Rockliffe-based No. 168 Squadron. Although initially all were in basic bomber configuration and had received only makeshift adaptations for transport role, 3 of them eventually received more substantial modifications with new nose that allowed easier loading. In 1946 unit was disbanded and surviving aircraft were disposed on civilian market. In later years several B-17's were used by civilian operators in Canadian interior.
Despite numerous requests, Soviet Union never received any B-17's under Lend Lease agreement, but eventually managed to become in fact 4th largest operator of them (after USAAF, RAF and US Navy). In 1945 significant number of B-17's force-landed in territories under Soviet control, at least 23 of which were subsequently repaired and pressed into service with 45 Tyazhelaya Bombardirovochnaya Divizia (45th Heavy Bomber Division) and later with various training units and as trials aircraft (last of these surviving until at least 1952).
Russia (Soviet Union)
In March 1945 single B-17 (in VIP standard) was donated to general Pierre-Marie Koenig to be his personal aircraft. Eventually that aircraft was later transferred to Institut Géographique National and converted to aerial mapping duties. There it was joined by some two dozen other second-hand B-17's used in the same role until the late 1980s.
In 1945 Danish airline Det Danske Luftfartselskab A/S purchased two B-17 airliners from Sweden for the long-range routes. One of these crashed in 1946, while the surviving one was put for sale after the introduction of DC-4's. It was bought by Danish military aviation which considered it ideal platform for aerial mapping work over Greenland, it was due to perform on behalf of Geodætisk Institut. It served in this capacity until 1953 when it was stored and in 1955 sold to French IGN.
During the war several B-17's (including single YB-40) landed - due to various reasons - in Portuguese territories, although these weren't used by their new, accidential owners, except for few test flights. In 1947, however, 5 SB-17's (later joined by one more) were delivered to Portugese military aviation for the purpose of providing SAR coverage in the Azores area. Eventually they were replaced by SA-16 Albatross flying boats, with last one being retired in 1959.
Despite actually operating a very tiny fleet of B-17's Israel is one of the more well-known operators of the type. In 1948 agents of the young state managed to purchase 4 Fortresses in somewhat incomplete condition (for a combat aircraft, that is - for a civilian operator, the buyers claimed to be, lack of equipment such as bomb sights and racks wouldn't be normally a problem). Three of them reached Czechoslovakia via Puerto Rico, Azores and Corsica, but last was impounded en route by Portuguese authorities. In Czechoslovakia planes received some military equipment before they made a flight to Israel (which happened to be also their first combat mission, bombing Cairo, Rafah and Gaza Strip). After the conclusion of 1948 war Israeli B-17's were upgraded to more uniform and less make-shift condition and constituted Israel's "strategic" bomber force until 1956 Suez War, after which they were retired due to poor technical condition.
Between 1951 and 1968 Brazilian Air Force operated 12 B-17's - mostly in SAR version, but also one each in aerial mapping and VIP/communications version. They were based in Recife with 6º Grupo de Aviação until they were gradually replaced by SA-16 Albatross flying boats (and also they happened to be last military-operated B-17's in the world).
In mid-1950s Bolivian government obtained (partially funded by US government aid) some 23 B-17's in cargo transport version, to be leased to local air freight operators. Until late 1980s, Fortresses were primarily used as meat carriers between lowland ranchos and major cities located in the highlands (transport of such perishable cargos being perennialy a major problem, given Bolivias rather poor transport network).
Argentina - two of the Canadian B-17's were sold to local Argentine operator, although it seems they made rather few flights in the Southern Hemisphere, due to some legal or financial reasons their owner encountered (rather not related to aircraft themselves, but to entriety of companys operations).
Colombia - after the war quite a few Fortresses spread around the Latin America as transports, including to Colombia, where according to some sources, depicted plane was specially adapted to carry particularly dangerous prisoners to a high-security prison somewhere in the jungle.
Dominican Republic - in its heyday in 1950s Dominican Military Aviation was best-equipped air force in Central America. Among it's diverse array of fairly potent combat aircraft were 2 B-17G's operated between 1948 and 1955/1956.
Iran - Single VIP-equipped B-17 was donated to Shah of Iran Reza Mohammad Pahlavi by TWA as a "deal sweetener" after the company obtained a contract to aid the development of national iranian airline.
Mexico - at least one civilian B-17 was used in Mexico for aerial mapping.
Nicaragua - one B-17 has been recorded to be used in Nicaragua as airliner. What's interesting, though, is that same registration at the same time was carried also by another airliner of another (better known) operator, which raised suspicions that this Fort could be actually flying fictional colours of front operation of the CIA.
Peru - several B-17's were used post-war as transports in Peru.
South Africa - single B-17 in aerial mapping version was leased in mid-1960s from french Institut Géographique National.
Taiwan - several US-owned by operated jointly by US and ROC secret services B-17's were used in Taiwan for agent insertion, leaflet-dropping and SIGINT flights over the mainland China between 1952 and 1959.
Yugoslavia - single slightly damaged B-17 landed in March 1945 on an airfield controlled by Yugoslav partisans. Although it had Yugoslav markings applised it's unclear (and rather improbable) if they made any flights on it, before it was transferred to Soviet Union.
Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Iran, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, South Africa, Taiwan, Yugoslavia
Geoffrey J. Thomas, Barry Ketley, KG 200. The Luftwaffe's most secret unit
, Hikoki Publications, 2003
Dan Hagedorn, Latin American Air Wars and Aircraft 1912-1969
, Hikoki Publications, 2005
Clarence Simonsen, RAF & RCAF Aircraft Nose Art in World War II
, Hikoki Publications, 2001
Maciej Góralczyk, Gerald T. Högl, Jürgen Kiroff, Nicholas Millman, Mikhail V. Orlov, Real Colors of WW II Aircraft
, AK Interactive, 2019
Ján Stanislav, Viliam Klabník, Slovenské letectvo, vol. 3 1944-1945
, Magnet Press, 2003
Robert S. Hopkins III, Spyflights and Overflights. US Strategic Aerial Reconnaissance. Volume 1 1945 - 1960
, Hikoki Publications, 2016
Tim Mason, The Secret Years. Flight Testing at Boscombe Down 1939-1945
, Hikoki Publications, 1998
Robert Dzhekson (Robert Jackson), Voyennaya tekhnika Vtoroi Mirovoi Voiny - B-17 Letalyushchaya Krepost
, Eksmo, 2007
Books from publishing series
, V. R. Kotelnikov, Okraska i oboznacheniya samolyetov Aviatsionnogo Korpusa i VVS Armii SShA 1926-1945 gg.
, Modelist-Konstruktor, 2009
Crowood Aviation Series
, Martin W. Bowman, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
, Crowood Press, 1998
De Geschiedenis van de Luchtvaart
, Gevechtsvliegtuigen met Wereldfaam
, Lekturama-Rotterdam, 1979
In detail & scale
, Alwyn T. Lloyd, Terry D. Moore, B-17 Flying Fortress
(3 volumes), Aero Publishers, Inc./Arms and Armour Press, 1983-86
, Doug Richardson, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
, BGW, 1993
Kampanie Lotnicze 6
, Elżbieta Teresa Prusinowska, Mirosław Skwiot, Pearl Harbor 1941
, AJ-Press, 1996
Kampanie Lotnicze 11
, Andre R. Zbiegniewski, Nowa Gwinea 1942
, AJ-Press, 1997
Kampanie Lotnicze 13, 14
, Marek Murawski, Obrona Powietrzne III Rzeszy. Działania dzienne
(2 volumes), AJ-Press, 1998
, Jacek Nowicki, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
, Wydawnictwo Militaria, 1997
Monografie Lotnicze, 90, 91
, Adam Jarski, Aurelia i Wawrzyniec Markowski, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
(2 volumes), AJ-Press, 2004
Mushroom White Books 9134
, Robert M. Stitt, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in RAF Coastal Command Service
, Stratus, 2019
Mushroom White Books 9138
, Jan Forsgren, The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in Foreign Service
, Stratus, 2019
Osprey Aircam Aviation Series 15
, Richard Ward, Ernest R. McDowell, Boeing B-17B-H Flying Fortress in USAAF, USAF, USN, USMC, USCG, RAF, French, Danish, Portuguese, IDF/AF, Dominican & Brazilian AF Service
, Opsrey Publications, 1970
Osprey Aircam Aviation Series S14
, Richard Ward, E. A. Munday, USAAF Heavy Bomb Group markings & camouflage 1941-1945, vol.2, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
, Osprey, 1973
Osprey Aircam-Airwar 2
, Jerry Scutts, USAAF Heavy Bomber Units ETO & MTO 1942-1945
, Osprey Publishing, 1977
Osprey Aviation Elite Units 11
, Brian D. O'Neill, 303rd Bombardment Group
, Osprey Publishing, 2003
Osprey Combat Aircraft 18, 36
, Martin Bowman, B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the Eighth Air Force
(2 volumes), Osprey Publishing, 2000-2002
Osprey Combat Aircraft 38
, William N. Hess, B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the MTO
, Osprey Publishing, 2003
Osprey Combat Aircraft 39
, Martin Bowman, B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the Pacific War
, Osprey Publishing, 2003
Osprey New Vanguard 283
, Steven J. Zaloga, American Guided Missiles of World War II
, Osprey Publishing, 2020
Profile Publications 77
, Charles D. Thompson, The Boeing B-17E & F Flying Fortress
, Profile Publications, 1966
Profile Publications 205
, Roger A. Freeman, Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
, Profile Publications, 1972
Squadron/Signal Aircraft in Action 12
, Steven Birdsall, B-17 in action
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1973
Squadron/Signal Aircraft in Action 63
, Larry Davis, B-17 in action
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1984
Squadron/Signal Fighting Colors 6561
, Steve Birdsall, B-17 Flying Fortress in Color
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1986
Squadron/Signal Fighting Colors 6563
, Robert Robinson, USAF Europe in Color. vol. 2 1947-1963
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1990
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6035
, Larry Davis, Air War Over Korea. A pictorial record
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1982
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6047
, Hans-Heiri Stapfer, Strangers in a Strange Land
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1988
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6049
, Larry Davis, Bent & Battered Wings. USAAF/USAF Damaged Aircraft 1935-1957
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1989
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6056
, Hans-Heiri Stapfer, Strangers in a Strange Land - Escape to Neutrality
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1992
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6074
, Steve Birdsall, Pride of Seattle. The Story of the First 300 B-17Fs
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1998
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6150
, Dana Bell, Air Force Colors, Vol. 1 1926-1942
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1995
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6151
, Dana Bell, Air Force Colors, Vol. 2 ETO & MTO 1942-45
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1980
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6152
, Dana Bell, Air Force Colors, Vol. 3 Pacific and Home Front, 1942-47
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1995
Squadron/Signal Aircraft Specials 6174
, Ron MacKay, 381st Bomb Group
, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1994
, Phil H. Listeman, The Boeing Fortress Mk.I
, Philedition, 2014
, Phil H. Listeman, The Boeing Fortress Mk.II & Mk.III
, Philedition, 2017
WarbirdTech Series 7
, Frederick A. Johnsen, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
, Specialty Press, 2002
Warpaint Series 90
, Kev Darling, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
, Warpaint Books, 2009
Articles in periodicals
Michał Mucha, Niezwykła historia Latającej Fortecy nazwanej "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby"
, AeroPlan, 1995/2
Michał Peda, Zestrzelenia "Poque Ma Home"
, AeroPlan, 2003/3
Paweł Przymusiała, Haganah. Wojna o niepodległość Izraela w 1948 r. (II)
, Aero Technika Lotnicza 1990/7
Wojciech Markowski, Samoloty z pomocą Powstaniu Warszawskiemu
, Lotnictwo Aviation International 1994/14
Szymon Tetera, Operacja "Double Strike". Cz. II - nalot na Schweinfurt
, Lotnictwo, 2007/11
Krzysztof Zalewski, Cesarskie "Latające Fortece"
, Lotnictwo, 2008/4
Maciej Strembiński, Bitwa o Szwajcarię 1943-1945
, Lotnictwo, 2013/2
Krzysztof Kuska, Consolidated B-24 Liberator vs Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
, Lotnictwo, 2013/3
Tomasz Szlagor, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress - ludzie i maszyny
, Militaria XX Wieku, 2007/6(21), 2008/1(22), 3(24), 2009/1(28)
Marek J. Murawski, Luftwaffe przeciwko 8. Armii Powietrznej USAAF
, Militaria XX Wieku, 2012/6(51)
Marek J. Murawski, KG 200 - tajny pułk Luftwaffe
, Militaria XX Wieku, 2015/4(67)
Marek J. Murawski, Cel - schody katedry! Nalot na Münster
, Militaria XX Wieku, 2016/s5(51), 2016/s6(52), 2017/s1(53)
Conflicts, coups, crises & clashes. A survey of Third-World air combat from 1946 to the present
, Small Air Forces Observer, vol.5 no.4 (20)
Search & Rescue - Brazilian Style
, Small Air Forces Observer, vol.7 no.4 (28)
Eric Hourant, Israeli Aircraft: PT-17, T-6, C-46, B-17 & C-47
, Small Air Forces Observer, vol.9 no.3 (35)
Leif Hellström, Dominican Republic B-17 & B-26
, Small Air Forces Observer, vol.12 no.2 (46)
Szymon Tetera, Nalot na Regensburg i Schweinfurt. 17 sierpnia 1943 r.
, Technika Wojskowa - Historia, 2017/3, 4
Leszek A. Wieliczko, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Powstanie i rozwój
, Technika Wojskowa - Historia, 2018/s4, s5, 6
Jacek Pukropp, Zatrzymać Japończyków! Amerykańskie ciężkie bombowce w początkowym okresie wojny na Dalekim Wschodzie
, Wojsko i Technika - Historia, 2016/6, 2017/1, 2
1000aircraftphotos - https://1000aircraftphotos.com
ABPic - https://abpic.co.uk
Aerial Visuals - http://www.aerialvisuals.ca
Aerospotter - https://aerospotter.blogspot.com
Aero Vintage Books - https://www.aerovintage.com
Air And Space - https://www.air-and-space.com
Air Force Materiel Command - https://www.afmc.af.mil
AirHistory.net - The Aviation History Image Archive - https://www.airhistory.net
Airliners - https://www.airliners.net
Air Vectors - https://www.airvectors.net
Agefotostock - https://www.agefotostock.com
American Air Museum in Britain - http://www.americanairmuseum.com
ArcAir - https://www.arcair.com
ArcForums - http://www.arcforums.com/forums
Australia@War - https://www.ozatwar.com
AviaDejaVu - http://aviadejavu.ru
Aviation Safety Network - https://aviation-safety.net
B-17 Bomber Flying Fortress - The Queen of the Skies - https://b17flyingfortress.de
Bob's Gander History - http://bobsganderhistory.com
Boeing Images - https://secure.boeingimages.com
BritModeller - https://www.britmodeller.com/forums
Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archvies - https://www.baaa-acro.com
Danish Register of Civil Aircraft - http://www.oy-reg.dk
Les Demoiselles de Creil: les B-17 de l'IGN - http://flyingfortress.canalblog.com
Flickr - https://www.flickr.com
Forced Landing Collection - https://www.forcedlandingcollection.se
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Hell's Angels. 303rd Bomb Group (H) - http://www.303rdbg.com
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History of the Brazilian Air Force - http://www.rudnei.cunha.nom.br/FAB/index.html
Iranian Aviation - http://www.iranianaviation.net
Key.Aero - https://www.key.aero/forum
Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano Fleet. Aircraft operated by LAB 1925-2010 - http://www.lloydaereobolivianofriends.com
Loud and Clear is Not Enough - Historias Individuales - https://loudandclearisnotenought.blogspot.com
Secret Projects - https://www.secretprojects.co.uk
Tails Through Time - http://aviationtrivia.blogspot.com
The Jive Bombers - https://thejivebombers.com
Vintage Wings of Canada - http://www.vintagewings.ca
VW-1 All Hands Alumni Association - http://vw1assoc.org
Warbird Information Exchange - http://warbirdinformationexchange.org
Warbird Registry - http://www.warbirdregistry.org/b17registry
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org
Wings-Aviation. An independent aviation website - http://www.wings-aviation.ch
Wings-Palette - http://wp.scn.ru
WW2 Aircraft - https://ww2aircraft.net
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com
Not my greatest achievment, I'm afraid. Best situation is when the author "wants to draw it" - in this case I only "wanted to see it done", which is far lower level of motivation. As a result, I'm afraid I cut some corners and ignored some issues and quality accordingly suffered, especially with last pictures made (which are USAAF ETO B-17's).
Rather humbling experience, that once again reminds me that I woved to reduce my FD activity to minimum and rather pass the mantle to "younger" (at least in terms of time spent on Shipbucket) generation of Artists, some of which alread proved that are capable of making drawings of much higher artistic quality than me (only for some reason they prefer to concentrate their FD efforts on AU/Challenge stuff