B-29 Superfortress | The Most Cruel Aircraft During World War II Period

B-29 Superfortress | The Most Cruel Aircraft During World War II Period

The B-29 Superfortress is arguably the most violent bomber in the World War II field because it was this plane that dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The action of the B-29s that bombarded Japan marked the end of World War II in the Asia Pacific region, which at the same time resulted in Japan's defeat.

Indirectly, the B-29 helped pave the way for Indonesia to proclaim its independence on August 17, 1945. Coinciding with the 76th Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Indonesia, on this occasion I will briefly discuss the history of the B-29. Happy reading


Prior to World War II, the United States Army Air Corps (USAAF) concluded that the B-17 Flying Fortress, which would become America's primary strategic bomber during the war, would not be adequate for use in the Pacific Theatre. Where the area requires bombers that can carry a larger payload.

In response to this, Boeing began working on a long-range bomber with a pressurized cabin design in 1938. Boeing later called the design the Model 334, this design was developed from an earlier aircraft, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Although the Air Corps lacked funds to assist with the design, Boeing continued development with its own funds.

In April 1939, Charles Lindbergh (USAAF pilot) convinced General Henry H. Arnold to produce a large number of new bombers to counter German aircraft production. In December 1939, the US Army Air Corps (USAAF) issued a formal specification for a design referred to as the "super bomber". Where this aircraft design can send 9,100 kg of bombs to targets at a distance of 4,292 km at a speed of 640 km / h.

After the specifications of the new aircraft were revealed, Boeing then submitted the Model 345 on May 11, 1940. Apart from Boeing, three other companies also submitted designs. The second was the name Consolidated Aircraft which submitted the Model 33 design. The third was Lockheed with the XB-30 design, and finally, Douglas who submitted the XB-31 design.

The design from Douglas and Lockheed was not chosen, the USAAF then chose a design from Boeing. Then Boeing received an order for two prototypes, codenamed XB-29. While Consolidated is still being asked to make design improvements to the Model 33, the design is planned to be used as a backup in case there is a problem with Boeing's design.


Boeing then received initial production orders for 14 aircraft and 250 aircraft in May 1941, aircraft orders were increased to 500 units in January 1942. The first prototype aircraft then flew for the first time on September 21, 1942. Production of the B-29 involved four major assembly plants including two Boeing-operated plants in Renton, Washington (Boeing Renton), a factory in Wichita, Kansas, a Bell plant in Marietta, Georgia near Atlanta ("Bell-Atlanta"), and a Martin plant in Omaha, Nebraska. Thousands of subcontractors are also involved in the project.

On February 18, 1943, the second prototype flew from Boeing Field in Seattle, but the aircraft suffered an engine fire and crashed. The crash killed Boeing test pilot Edmund T. Allen and his 10 crew, 20 workers at the Frye Meat Packing Plant, and a Seattle firefighter. In early 1944, Boeing redesigned the aircraft to include the latest changes.

After a redesign, the B-29 managed to become one of the most technologically advanced aircraft during World War II. The B-29 has many new features, including a remote-controlled gun. The two crew areas, front, and rear are pressurized cabs and are connected by long tubes. The aircraft is powered by four engines, each of which is equipped with 4 propeller blades


The two cabins on the B-29 are interconnected.


Weapon on the tail of the plane.


One of the revolutionary innovations of this bomber aircraft is the application of a pressurized cabin. This means that the B-29 crew does not need to wear oxygen masks when the aircraft is flying at high altitudes. The B-29 became the first aircraft to successfully use the pressurized cabin design, it made the cabin atmosphere more comfortable for the crew on duty.

Boeing built a total of 2,766 B-29s at the factory in Wichita, Kansas. Then Bell Aircraft Co. built 668 bombers in Georgia, and Glenn L. Martin Co. building 536 in Nebraska. The aircraft then entered service in May 1944, production of the B-29 itself ended in 1946.

B-29 Silverplate

In 1945, as many as 1,000 B-29s were deployed to bomb Tokyo, destroying most of the rest of the city. The most famous mission of the B-29 was when the plane was assigned to drop the world's first atomic bomb that would destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For this mission, the aircraft also made special modifications which became known as

"Project Silverplate".

"Project Silverplate" is code that refers to a secret program in "Project Manhattan" to produce a special version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber that would be capable of dropping atomic bombs. The scientists who designed the nuclear bomb said that the bomb they designed would not fit if carried by a B-29 aircraft. For that reason, there was a proposal to use a British aircraft called the Avro Lancaster. Where this plane only needs a few modifications to be able to carry the atomic bomb.

However, Major General Leslie Groves, commander of the Manhattan Project, and General Henry H. Arnold, head of the United States Army Air Forces, wanted to use American-made aircraft. On November 30, 1943, the United States Army Air Forces sent instructions to the United States Army Air Forces Materiel Command at Wright Field, Ohio, for a top-secret B-29 modification project.

Scientists working on Project Manhattan then sent full-size mockups of the atomic bombs referred to as "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" to Wright Field in mid-December 1943. The first B-29s then arrived at Wright Field, Ohio, on December 2 and underwent extensive modifications to the bomb chamber. This was done to accommodate the larger size of the weapon. The technicians then removed the four doors of the B-29 bomb chamber as well as removing all weapons stations in the rear tail.


Each modified aircraft is designed to carry one of these bombs, either the Little Boy type to be mounted on the front of the Fat Man type to the rear. The technicians also placed cameras in the weapons compartment to record the test launch of the bomb. The modifications carried out at that time were arguably very long, the process required more than 6000 man-hours and the first B-29 prototype was not completed until February 20, 1944.

The modified B-29 arrived at Muroc Army Airfield in California in March 1944, military officials began instructing to test various forms of the bomb. On March 6, engineers tested the Little Boy model bomb followed by two tests of the Fat Man model on March 14. Little Boy's test proved successful, but Fat Man exhibited significant wobbling characteristics due to misalignment in the tail fin. However, in subsequent trials, the problem can be resolved.

After successful testing of the bomb shape, the production phase of the Silverplate began on August 22, 1944, a total of 14 aircraft were produced. In mid-October 1944, the first three B-29 Silverplates were delivered to the USAAF and flown to Wendover Army Airfield, Utah. The new crew position, known as the "weaponeer station", is specially designed in the cockpit of the aircraft, equipped with panels to monitor the release and detonation of bombs during combat.

Fourteen production aircraft were assigned to the 393rd Bomb Squadron, while three of them were handed over to 216th AAF Base for bomb launch tests to be carried out at Wendover. The USAAF continued to improve and modify the Silverplate series throughout 1945. The last wartime silverplate incorporated all of the technical improvements to the B-29 aircraft. The final series of Silverplate modifications included a new engine, reversible and pneumatic pitch propellers, and actuators for quickly opening and closing the bomb chamber doors. The B-29 Silverplate represents a significant performance improvement over not the standard variant.


During the time of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in order to fulfill his promise to China to help fight Japan, America then launched "Operation Matterhorn". The operation aims to deploy B-29 aircraft to attack Japan from four bases in southern China as well as five major bases in India, to strike other targets in the region from China and India as needed.

The first B-29 combat mission was undertaken on 5 June 1944, with 77 of the 98 B-29s launched from India bombing areas of Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. It was reported that five B-29s were lost during this mission. On June 15, 1944, 68 B-29s took off from bases around Chengdu, 47 of which bombed the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. This was the first attack on the Japanese islands since the Doolittle attack in April 1942. By July, attacks on the Japanese from Chinese airfields continued with relatively low intensity.

In late January 1945, B-29s were withdrawn from service at Chinese air bases, aircraft were gradually transferred to new bases in the Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific, while the last B-29 combat mission from India was March 29, 1945. Apart from logistical problems, the reasons for this were: relocating the base because, if flying from China, the B-29 could not reach all of Japan. The new base also hosted a large number of B-29 flights during the latter part of World War II.


A glimpse of the Mariana Islands, initially the island was controlled by the Japanese, then in its development the island was successfully controlled by the allies and became a "home base" for the B-29. Major General Curtis E. LeMay was then appointed Commander of the USAAF XXI Bomber Command B-29 Superfortress on 20 January 1945. LeMay then announced the change of the B-29's role from its primary function as a strategic bomber to a tactical bomber with low flying below 10,000 feet at night. day. Where the plane was assigned to drop an incendiary bomb.

The realization of LeMay's tactics was carried out on March 9-10, 1945, as many as 302 B-29s were deployed to attack Yawata City and Tokyo. In that mission, LeMay lost 14 aircraft. However, the attacks continued for the next 10 days targeting Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe. Uncle Sam then showered the Japanese with 10,000 tons of bombs on these cities.

On the evening of May 25-26 1945, attacks on Tokyo and Yokohama were again carried out by 464 B-29s. In this attack, the Americans lost 25 planes but managed to kill 500,000 Japanese residents and cause 13 million people to lose their homes. Since then, attacks have intensified until the end of the war. These attacks succeeded in destroying most of the major cities in Japan and destroying their military industry. Attacks by B-29s since April 1945 proved effective in reducing Japan's ability to move troops.

On July 26, 1945, two atomic bombs, namely Fat Man and Little Boy, were brought to the Mariana Island aboard the USS Indianapolis. The plan to drop the bomb had already been determined, in early August 1945.

One of the famous B-29 Silverplate series was given the nickname *** "Enola Gay",*** the name on this plane was taken from the name of the B-29 pilot's mother, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Tibbets. This plane went down in history as the first plane to drop an atomic bomb called "Little Boy" on August 6, 1945, on Hiroshima.


Three days later, a B-29 nicknamed "Bockscar", piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, dropped a second bomb, referred to as "Fat Man". This bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, the bomb then killed 240,000 people instantly.

After suffering heavy damage and loss of life, shortly thereafter, Japan surrendered to the allies. The moment of the surrender of Japan was then used by Indonesian national figures to declare Indonesia's independence on August 17, 1945.

For his great role in the history of aviation and the United States Air Force, Enola Gay has the honor of being a resident of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, Bockscar has the honor of being a resident of the Na Museum U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.


Imitated by the Soviet Union

Through the Land-Lease program, the Soviets twice asked the United States to send B-29s, but the Americans refused. Land-Lease is a program in which the United States supplies France, Great Britain, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and other allied countries with food, oil, and weapons. This program lasted from 1941 to 1945. Armament assistance included ships, planes, along other weapons. The Act was signed under the umbrella of law on March 11, 1941, and expired in September 1945.

During 1944 and 1945 four B-29s made emergency landings on Soviet territory after bomb attacks in Manchuria and Japan. America then asked the Soviet Union to return their B-29s. Instead of returning the aircraft, the Soviets reverse engineered the American B-29 and used it as the basis for developing its own bomber, the Tupolev Tu-4.


Because aluminum raw materials in the Soviet Union were supplied in different sizes than those available in the US, the entire aircraft had to be extensively re-engineered. Despite the successful reverse engineering program, the Tu-4's specifications are still below the B-29 in terms of range and payload that can be carried.

In 1947, the Soviets debuted both the Tupolev Tu-4 and the Tupolev Tu-70 transport variant. The Soviets used a tail gunner position similar to that of the B-29 in many bombers and later transports. The Tu-4 was given the nickname "Bull" by NATO, this aircraft served for a long time, only being retired in 1988.

The Bomber's End

After the end of World War II, the B-29 was still used by America, this aircraft then returned to action during the Korean War in the 1950s. Some of the aircraft were later upgraded and referred to as the B-50, the aircraft assigned to drop conventional bombs. The B-50 is equipped with a new engine, namely the Pratt & Whitney R-4360-35 Wasp Major. However, during the Korean War, the American Air Force actually lost a lot of its bomber fleet.

The cause of the number of American bombers that were shot down was due to the presence of the Soviet Union's MiG-15 aircraft. The aircraft, which is powered by a turbojet engine, has high speed and is capable of flying at higher altitudes, making it a frightening specter for the B-50. Because it was considered ineffective for use in the Korean War, this aircraft was then converted as a tanker aircraft, it played a role in refueling in the air for fighter aircraft operating in the war.

In addition to tanker aircraft, at that time the B-29 was also converted into a cargo plane and a medical evacuation aircraft. Produced from 1943-1946, Boeing managed to produce a total of 3,970 aircraft. The planes were then retired in 1960. And here is a glimpse of the specifications:


B-29 Superfortress

Country Of Origin: United States

Manufacturer: Boeing

Crew: 11 (Pilot, Co-pilot, Bombardier, Flight Engineer, Navigator, Radio Operator, Radar Observer, Right Gunner, Left Gunner, Central Fire Control, Tail Gunner)

Length: 30.18m

Wingspan: 43.05m

Height: 8.46m

Empty Weight: 33,793 kg

Maximum Take Off Weight: 60,500 kg

Engine: 4 × Wright R-3350-23 Duplex-Cyclone

Maximum Speed: 575 km/h

Roaming Speed: 350 km/h

Flying Ferry: 9,000 km

Maximum Altitude: 9,710 m

Armament: 8 or 10× .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning M2, 1 x 20 mm cannon,

carrying capacity up to 10 tons of bombs, including nuclear bombs (Silverplate variant)


B-50 Superfortress, an upgraded variant of the B-29.