The Boeing B-47 Stratojet (company Model 450) is a retired American long-range, six-engined, turbojet-powered strategic bomber designed to fly at high subsonic speed and at high altitude to avoid enemy interceptor aircraft. The primary mission of the B-47 was as a nuclear bomber capable of striking targets within the Soviet Union.
Development of the B-47 can be traced back to a requirement expressed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in 1943 for a reconnaissance bomber that harnessed newly developed jet propulsion. Another key innovation adopted during the development process was the swept wing, drawing upon captured German research. With its engines carried in nacelles underneath the wing, the B-47 represented a major innovation in post-World War II combat jet design, and contributed to the development of modern jet airliners. Suitably impressed, in April 1946, the USAAF ordered two prototypes, designated "XB-47"; on 17 December 1947, the first prototype performed its maiden flight. Facing off competition such as the North American XB-45, Convair XB-46 and Martin XB-48, a formal contract for 10 B-47A bombers was signed on 3 September 1948. This would be soon followed by much larger contracts.
During 1951, the B-47 entered operational service with the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC), quickly becoming a mainstay of its bomber strength by the late 1950s. Over 2,000 were manufactured to meet the Air Force's extensive demands, driven by the tensions of the Cold War. The B-47 was in service as a strategic bomber until 1965, at which point it had largely been supplanted by more capable aircraft, such as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. However, the B-47 was also adapted to perform a number of other roles and functions, including photographic reconnaissance, electronic intelligence, and weather reconnaissance. While never seeing combat as a bomber, reconnaissance RB-47s would occasionally come under fire near to or within Soviet air space. The type remained in service as a reconnaissance aircraft until 1969; a handful served as flying testbeds up until 1977.
|Boeing B-47 Stratojet in flight|
|Role||Strategic bomber/Aerial reconnaissance|
|National origin||United States|
|First flight||17 December 1947|
|Status||Withdrawn from service|
|Primary user||United States Air Force|
The B-47 arose from an informal 1943 requirement for a jet-powered reconnaissance bomber, drawn up by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) to prompt manufacturers to start research into jet bombers. Boeing was among several companies to respond to the request; one of its designs, the Model 424, was basically a scaled-down version of the piston-engined B-29 Superfortress equipped with four jet engines. In 1944, this initial concept evolved into a formal request-for-proposal to design a new bomber with a maximum speed of 550 mph (890 km/h), a cruise speed of 450 mph (720 km/h), a range of 3,500 mi (5,600 km), and a service ceiling of 45,000 ft (13,700 m).
In December 1944, North American Aviation, the Convair Corp., Boeing and the Glenn Martin Company submitted proposals for the new long-range jet bomber. Wind tunnel testing had shown that the drag from the engine installation of the Model 424 was too high, so Boeing's entry was a revised design, the Model 432, with the four engines buried in the forward fuselage. The USAAF awarded study contracts to all four companies, requiring that North American and Convair concentrate on four-engined designs (to become B-45 and XB-46), while Boeing and Martin were to build six-engined aircraft (the B-47 and XB-48). The powerplant was to be General Electric's new TG-180 turbojet engine.
In May 1945, the von Kármán mission of the Army Air Forces inspected the secret German aeronautics laboratory near Braunschweig. von Kármán's team included the chief of the technical staff at Boeing, George S. Schairer. He had heard about the controversial swept-wing theory of R. T. Jones at Langley, but seeing German models of swept-wing aircraft and extensive supersonic wind-tunnel data, the concept was decisively confirmed. He wired his home office: "Stop the bomber design" and changed the wing design. Analysis by Boeing engineer Vic Ganzer suggested an optimum sweepback angle of about 35 degrees. Boeing's aeronautical engineers modified the Model 432 with swept wings and tail to produce the "Model 448", which was presented to the USAAF in September 1945. It retained the four TG-180 jet engines in its forward fuselage, with two more TG-180s in the rear fuselage. The flush-mounted air intakes for the rear engines were inadequate while the USAAF considered the engine installation within the fuselage to be a fire hazard.
The engines were moved to streamlined pylon-mounted pods under the wings, leading to the next iteration, the Model 450, which featured two TG-180s in a twin pod mounted on a pylon about a third of the way outboard on each wing, plus another engine at each wingtip. The Army Air Force liked this new configuration, so Boeing's engineers refined it, moving the outer engines further inboard to about 3⁄4 of the wingspan. The thin wings provided no space for wheels to retract into so a "bicycle landing gear" was chosen, the two main gear assemblies arranged in a tandem configuration and outrigger struts fitted to the inboard engine pods. As the landing gear arrangement made rotation impossible, it was designed so that the aircraft rested on the ground at the proper angle for takeoff.
Pleased with the refined Model 450 design, in April 1946, the USAAF ordered two prototypes, to be designated "XB-47". Assembly began in June 1947. The first XB-47 was rolled out on 12 September 1947, a few days before the USAAF became a separate service, the United States Air Force, on 18 September 1947. According to aviation authors Bill Gunston and Peter Gilchrist, Boeing subjected the first prototype to "one of the most comprehensive ground-test programmes ever undertaken".
The XB-47 prototype flew its first flight on 17 December 1947 (the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first four flights on 17 December 1903), test pilots Robert Robbins and Scott Osler being at the controls. It lasted just 27 minutes, flying from Boeing Field in Seattle to Moses Lake Airfield in central Washington state. While not experiencing major problems, the emergency hot wire system was needed to raise the flaps and the engine fire warning indicators falsely lit up. Robbins stated that it had good flight characteristics.
Robbins had been skeptical about the XB-47, saying that before his first flight he had prayed, "Oh God, please help me through the next two hours." Robbins soon realized that he had an extraordinary aircraft. Chuck Yeager also flew the XB-47, noting it was so aerodynamically clean that he had difficulty landing on the Edwards lakebed. In February 1949, Russ Schleeh and Joe Howell "broke all coast-to-coast speed records" flying from Moses Lake Air Force Base to Andrews Air Force Base, averaging 607.8 miles per hour (978.2 km/h). During an early test flight, the canopy came off at high speed, killing pilot Scott Osler, the aircraft being safely landed by the copilot. The accident resulted in a canopy redesign and the hiring of pilot Tex Johnston as chief test pilot.
The second XB-47 (46-066) prototype first flew on 21 July 1948 and, following its delivery to the USAF in December of that year, served as a flying test bed until 1954. Its final destination was Chanute AFB where it was used as a maintenance and familiarization aircraft. The second prototype was equipped with more powerful General Electric J47-GE-3 turbojets with 5,200 lbf (23 kN) of static thrust each. The J47 or "TG-190" was a redesigned version of the TG-180/J35. The first prototype was later retrofitted with these engines.
Flight testing of the prototypes was careful and methodical since the design was new in so many ways. They initially suffered from "Dutch roll", an instability that caused it to weave in widening "S" turns, remedied by the addition of a "yaw damper" control system to automatically apply rudder to damp out the weaving motion. It also had a tendency to pitch up, addressed via adding small vanes called "vortex generators" onto the wings that caused turbulence, preventing airflow separation.
Both XB-47 prototypes were test flown at Edwards AFB; the first XB-47 (46-065) was disassembled and scrapped in 1954, making the second prototype (46-066) the sole surviving XB-47. Upon retirement, XB-47 (46-066) was restored and placed on display at the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum in Rantoul, Illinois, remaining there until the museum announced its closure due to financial difficulties in April 2015. In late 2015, the Flight Test Historical Foundation began fundraising to purchase XB-47 (46-066) for relocation to the Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB. The purchase was completed in August 2016 and on 21 September 2016 the aircraft arrived at Edwards AFB for reassembly, restoration and eventual display at the Flight Test Museum.
By mid-1948, the Air Force's bomber competition had already been through one iteration, pitting the North American XB-45 against the Convair XB-46. The North American design won that round of the competition; as an interim measure, the USAF decided to put the North American bomber into production on a limited basis as the B-45 Tornado. The expectation was that B-45 production would be terminated if either of the remaining two designs in the competition, the Boeing XB-47 and the Martin XB-48, proved superior. It is sometimes claimed that the final production decision was made as a result of Boeing president Bill Allen inviting USAF General K.B. Wolfe, in charge of bomber production, for a ride on the XB-47. A formal contract for 10 aircraft was signed on 3 September 1948.
The total number of B-47s built was 2,032.
The XB-47, which looked unlike contemporary bombers, was described by some observers as a "sleek, beautiful outcome that was highly advanced". The 35-degree swept wings were shoulder-mounted, the twin inboard turbojet engines mounted in pods, and the outboard engines tacked under the wings short of the wingtips. Excluding a change from the shoulder wing configuration to under the fuselage and adopting side-by-side cockpit seating, future airliners would commonly use a similar configuration. This arrangement reduced the bending moment at the wing roots, saving structural weight; the engines' mass also acted as counter-flutter weights.
The wing airfoil was identified by Boeing as the BAC 145, also known as the NACA 64A(.225)12 mod airfoil. Wing flexibility was a concern, flexing as much as 17.5 ft (5.3 m) at the tip; major effort was expended to ensure that flight control could be maintained as the wing moved up and down; these worries proved to be mostly unfounded. Its maximum speed was limited to 425 kn (787 km/h) to avoid control reversal, where aileron inputs would cause the wings to twist and produce a roll in the opposite direction to that desired by the pilot. The wings were fitted with a set of Fowler flaps that extended well behind the wing to enhance lift at slow speeds. The flight control surfaces were powered, augmenting the pilot's inputs and reducing exertion to overcome the forces involved.
The XB-47 was designed to carry a crew of three in a pressurized forward compartment: a pilot and copilot, in tandem, in a long fighter-style bubble canopy, and a navigator/bombardier in a compartment in the nose. The copilot doubled as tail gunner (using a remotely controlled, radar-directed tail gun), and the navigator as bombardier. The bubble canopy, which provided a high level of visibility to the pilots, could pitch up and slide backward; as the cockpit was high off the ground, crew would enter and exit it via a door and ladder on the underside of the nose. The extreme front of the nose was initially glazed to allow visual navigation and bomb sighting, but this was quickly and increasingly faired over with metal. Most production versions had a solid metal nose with no windows. A K-series bombsight provided integrated radar navigation and visual navigation, the optical portion extending through the nose in a small dome. For greater comfort, both heaters and refrigeration systems were present in the cockpit to manage the internal climate; furthermore, there was very little vibration compared to prior bombers powered by reciprocating engines.
During the late 1940s, the bomber was hailed as the fastest of its class in the world. The first prototypes were fitted with General Electric J35 turbojets, the production version of the TG-180, with 3,970 lbf (17.7 kN) of thrust. Early jet engines did not develop good thrust at low speeds, so to help a heavily loaded bomber take off, the B-47 had provisions for fitting solid-fuel rocket-assisted takeoff (RATO) rockets, each generating roughly 1,000 lbf (4.4 kN) of static thrust. Early aircraft had mounts for nine RATO units built into each side of the rear fuselage, arranged in three rows of three bottles. Most of the space within the upper fuselage was taken up by self-sealing fuel tanks, the wing having been deemed unsuitable for storing fuel.
The performance of the Model 450 was projected to be so good that the bomber would be as fast as fighters then on the drawing board; thus the only defensive armament was to be a tail turret with two .50 in (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns, which would in principle be directed by an automatic fire-control system. The two XB-47s were not fitted with any combat equipment nor tail turrets as they were engineering and flight test aircraft only. The total bombload capacity was to be 25,000 lb (11 t). Production aircraft were to be equipped with modern electronics for navigation, bombing, countermeasures and turret fire control. Navigation was more difficult than on earlier aircraft due to the higher speed involved.
One problem with the aircraft was that at higher altitudes, where the pure turbojet engines could produce decent fuel economy, the wing was very compromised. At the top of the B-47's envelope, about 35,000 feet (11,000 m), it was in a "coffin corner". That means that at this level, which produced the most range at most weights due to fuel consumption, there was an envelope of 5 kn (9.3 km/h) between maximum mach and stall speed. For the B-47 to cross the Atlantic Ocean, it had to be flown this high; due to its rudimentary autopilot, the pilot had to leave it turned off and spend up to eight hours staring at the airspeed and manipulating the throttles to avoid crashing. For perspective, a modern Boeing 757 has over 50 kn (93 km/h) of difference at even a very heavy weight at 41,000 feet (12,000 m). Fuel capacity was enormous, at 17,000 US gal (64,000 l), more than triple the 5,000 US gal (19,000 l) on the B-29 Superfortress, and meant that maintaining fuel trim to ensure a stable center of gravity was a critical copilot duty.
The aircraft was so aerodynamically clean that rapid descent ("penetration") from high cruise altitude to the landing pattern required dragging the deployed rear landing gear. The relatively high wing loading (weight/wing area) required a high landing speed of 180 kn (330 km/h). To shorten the landing roll, Air Force test pilot Major Guy Townsend promoted the addition of a 32 ft (9.8 m) German-invented "ribbon" drag chute (thrust reversers had not then been developed). For the same reason, the B-47 was the first mass-produced aircraft to be equipped with an anti-skid braking system.
A related problem was that the aircraft's engines would have to be throttled down on landing approach. Since it could take as long as 20 seconds to throttle them back up to full power, the big bomber could not easily do a "touch and go" momentary landing. A 16-foot "approach chute" (drogue parachute) provided aerodynamic drag so that the aircraft could be flown at approach speeds with the engines throttled at ready-to-spool-up medium power. On the ground, the pilots used the 32-foot "brake chute". The brake chute could be deployed to stop the aircraft from "porpoising", or bouncing, after a hard landing on the front nose gear. Training typically included an hour of dragging the approach chute around the landing pattern for multiple practice landings.
The USAF Strategic Air Command operated multiple B-47 models (B-47s, EB-47s, RB-47s and YRB-47s) from 1951 through 1965. Upon entry to service, its performance was closer to that of contemporary fighters than SAC's extant B-36 Peacemaker bomber, setting multiple records with ease. It handled well in flight, the controls having a fighter-like light touch. The large bubble canopy enhanced the flying crew's vision and gave a fighter-like feel, but also caused internal temperature variations for the crew. The three-man crew consisted of the commander, copilot, and a navigator/bombardier or a crew chief.
It was not until 1953 that the B-47 became operational. It was sluggish on takeoff and too fast on landings, an unpleasant combination. If landed at the wrong angle, the B-47 would "porpoise", bouncing fore-and-aft; if the pilot did not lift off for another go-around, instability would quickly cause it to skid onto one wing and cartwheel. Because the wings and surfaces were flexible and bent in flight, low-altitude speed restrictions were necessary to ensure effective flight control. The B-47 was regarded as a maintenance "hog". General reliability was good, the only major issuing relating to the avionics, typical given the vacuum tube technology used and the placement of equipment outside the pressurized crew compartment. Much work was done to improve avionics reliability, but remained problematic throughout its operational life.
Starting in 1950, several models of the B-47 included a fuel tank inerting system, in which dry ice was sublimed into carbon dioxide vapor while the fuel pumps operated or while the in-flight refueling system was in use; the carbon dioxide was pumped into both the fuel tanks and the fuel system to ensure low oxygen levels throughout. It was implemented largely to reduce the probability of an explosion from static electricity discharges.
Initial mission profiles included the loft bombing of nuclear weapons. As the training for this imposes repeated high stress on the aircraft, the airframe lifetime would have been severely limited by metal fatigue, and this maneuver was eliminated. Improved training led to a good safety record, and few crews felt the aircraft was unsafe or too demanding, but apparently there were some aircrews who had little affection for the B-47. Crew workload was high, having only three crew members to operate it. Boeing's B-52 Stratofortress, in contrast, generally had six crewmen, five officers and one enlisted, with more internal cabin space.
An XB-47 was flown in the 1951 Operation Greenhouse nuclear weapons test. This was followed by a B-47B being flown in the 1952 test, Operation Ivy and the 1954 test, Operation Castle. A B-47E was then flown in the 1956 test, Operation Redwing. "Reflex" missions proved the long-endurance (eighteen hours) and long range capability of the B-47 and aircrews. These were "simulated strike missions against the then Soviet enemy".
Three B-47s flew cross country from March Air Force Base to the Philadelphia International Airport as participants in the 1955 Labor Day race. In the 1956 event, three B-47s participated in the G.E. Trophy race for Jet Bombers, flying from Kindley Field, Bermuda, to Oklahoma City. One of these set a course speed record of 601.187 MPH.
By 1956, the USAF had 28 wings of B-47 bombers and five wings of RB-47 reconnaissance aircraft. The B-47 was the first line of America's strategic nuclear deterrent, often operating from forward bases in the UK, Morocco, Spain, Alaska, Greenland and Guam. B-47s were often set up on "one-third" alert, with a third of operational aircraft available sitting on hardstands or an alert ramp adjacent to the runway, loaded with fuel and nuclear weapons, crews on standby, ready to attack the USSR at short notice. Crews were trained to perform "Minimum Interval Take Offs (MITO)", one bomber following another into the air at intervals of as little as 15 seconds to launch as fast as possible. MITO could be hazardous, as the bombers left wingtip vortices and general turbulence behind them; the first generation turbojet engines, fitted with water-injection systems, also created dense black smoke.
The B-47 was the backbone of SAC into 1959, when the B-52 began to assume nuclear alert duties and the number of B-47 bomber wings started to be reduced. B-47 production ceased in 1957, though modifications and rebuilds continued after that. Operational practice for B-47 bomber operations during this time went from high-altitude bombing to low-altitude strike, which was judged more likely to penetrate Soviet defenses. Crews were trained in "pop-up" attacks, coming in at low level at 425 knots (787 km/h) and then climbing abruptly near the target before releasing a nuclear weapon.
Stress and fatigue incurred in low-altitude operations led to a number of wing failures and crashes, and an extensive refit program was begun in 1958 to strengthen the wing mountings. The program was known as "Milk Bottle", named after the big connecting pins that were replaced in the wing roots.
One of the more notable mishaps involving a B-47 occurred on 5 February 1958 near Savannah, Georgia, in the so-called 1958 Tybee Island B-47 crash. A B-47 based out of Homestead AFB, Florida, was engaged in a simulated combat exercise against an F-86 fighter. As was the practice at the time, the B-47 was carrying a single 7,600 lb (3,400 kg) Mark 15 nuclear bomb, without its core. During this exercise, the two aircraft collided; the F-86 crashed after the pilot ejected, while the B-47 suffered substantial damage, including loss of power in one outboard jet engine. After three unsuccessful landing attempts at Hunter Air Force Base, the bomber pilot had to "safe" soft drop the Mark 15 weapon off the coast of Savannah, Georgia near Tybee Island, after which the B-47 landed safely. An extensive nine-month search for the unarmed bomb proved futile.
In 1963, the Kennedy administration offered 24 B-47E bombers as an interim Canberra Mk 20 replacement for Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), pending delivery of the much delayed F-111C aircraft. Three B-47E aircraft flew to Australia for demonstration purposes, but RAAF declined the offer as technically outdated and too resource-intensive.
During 1963, final phaseout of B-47 bomber wings began, the last bombers were out of service with SAC by 1966. The last USAF operational aircraft, WB-47Es assigned to the Air Weather Service, were withdrawn from use in September 1969. Shortly before, a B-47E, Air Force Serial Number 53-2280, was used as a testbed for a newly developed fly-by-wire system. The U.S. Navy kept specialized EB-47E test aircraft from USAF inventory in occasional use to support the Fleet Electronic Warfare Systems Group (FEWSG) until December 1977, being replaced by government owned/contractor operated (GOCO) NKC-135 modified Stratotankers also loaned from the USAF.
The final recorded flight of a B-47 was on 17 June 1986, when a B-47E was restored to flightworthy condition for a one-time ferry flight. This aircraft was flown from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, to Castle Air Force Base, California, for static display at the Castle Air Museum, where it presently resides.
The only B-47s to see anything that resembled combat were the aerial reconnaissance variants. The first overflight of Soviet territory with a B-47B, fitted with special radar and cameras in the bomb bay, occurred on 15 October 1952, overflying Soviet airfields in Northeastern Siberia. RB-47s operated from almost every airfield that gave them access to the USSR and routinely probed Soviet airspace. Occasionally, they would avoid confrontations via speed and evasion; at least five aircraft were fired on and three were shot down. The RB-47s fired back with their tail turrets, although it is uncertain if they scored any kills; these were the only shots fired in anger by any B-47.
On 8 May 1954, after a top secret reconnaissance mission near the Kola Peninsula, a 4th Air Division / 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing RB-47E, flown by then-Capt (later Col) Harold "Hal" Austin, overflew the Soviet Union at high altitude, out of reach of MiG-15s. However, unknown to USAF intelligence, MiG-17s capable of intercepting it had been stationed nearby; the RB-47E was chased by several MiG-17s, firing upon it with their guns over Soviet and Finnish airspace. While taking damage, the RB-47E escaped over Sweden to its home base at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire; its top speed and combat radius superiority to the fighter jets being decisive factors. The mission marked the first time a jet aircraft equipped with modern aerial photography equipment, K-17 and K-38 cameras, was used for USAF reconnaissance over the Soviet Union. The incident was kept secret by all parties.
Other interceptions resulted in losses. An RB-47 flying out of Alaska was scouting out the Kamchatka Peninsula on 17 April 1955, when it was intercepted by Soviet MiG-15s in international airspace. The RB-47 and its crew disappeared. Between 21 March and 10 May 1956, 16 RB-47Es and five RB-47Hs operating from Thule performed overflights the length of Siberia 156 times under Project HOMERUN. The Soviets filed an angry complaint with the U.S. government, which attributed the overflights to "navigational difficulties". MiGs intercepted RB-47s on three separate occasions in late 1958: over the Black Sea on 31 October, over the Baltic on 7 November, and over the Sea of Japan on 17 November.
On 1 July 1960, a PVO Strany MiG-19 shot down an RB-47H (AF Serial No. 53-4281) in international airspace over the Barents Sea, killing four of the crew while two were captured by the Soviets and released in 1961. The co-pilot reported that the MiG-19 jammed his MD-4 FCS (that aimed the tail guns), rendering it defenseless. The last known confrontation between MiGs and RB-47s occurred on 28 April 1965, when an ERB-47H was intercepted by two North Korean MiG-17s over the Sea of Japan. While hit by the MiGs, it returned to Yokota Air Base in Japan with three engines out. A few operated during the Vietnam War on missions like relaying ELINT data but were replaced by more efficient and capable Boeing RC-135s. The last RB-47H was retired on 29 December 1967.
The final 15 RB-47s, built from December 1955, were fitted with additional equipment, including the AN/APD "side looking airborne radar" (SLAR) system, and gear to sample the air for fallout from nuclear tests. These were given the designation RB-47K and generally used for weather reconnaissance missions, carrying a load of eight "dropsonde" weather sensors that were released at various checkpoints along the flight path. Data radioed back from the dropsondes was logged by the navigator. The RB-47Ks were in service until 1963. The type was succeeded by dedicated reconnaissance aircraft such as the Lockheed U-2.
Twenty-three surviving airframes exist in museum collections; all are located in the United States.
Over the operating history of the B-47, 203 aircraft were lost in crashes, with 464 deaths. This represents approximately 10% of the total number produced.
On 10 March 1956, four B-47s left MacDill Air Force Base in Florida for a non-stop flight to Ben Guerir Air Base in Morocco. After descending through clouds to begin their second round of aerial refueling, over the Mediterranean Sea at 14,000 feet, one of the four aircraft, serial number 52-0534, failed to make contact with the tanker; neither the aircraft (which was carrying two nuclear weapon cores) nor its personnel were ever found.
On 28 March 1956, a B-47 exploded near Wichita, Kansas, with an instructor and two student pilots on board. It crashed four miles northeast of the city, killing its crew of three. The office of information services at McConnell Air Force Base said the explosion occurred after takeoff, probably at about 2,000 feet altitude. Wreckage was strewn along the countryside for several miles as the wings sheared off and the fuselage tumbled to earth.
On 27 July 1956, a B-47 of the 307th Bombardment Wing crashed at RAF Lakenheath killing its crew and causing a near nuclear accident when it hit a storage igloo containing three MK-6 nuclear weapons. Although the bombs involved lacked their fissile cores installed, each carried about 8,000 pounds of high explosives for their trigger mechanism. The crash and ensuing fire did not ignite the high explosives and no detonation occurred.
In November 1956, B-47E serial number 51-2421 of the 96th Bombardment Wing, flying from Altus AFB, crashed on a farm near Hobart, Oklahoma, following engine problems. Four crewmen were killed in the incident.
On 9 October 1957, B-47 serial number 51-2177A, of the 447th Bomb Squadron, 321st Bomb Wing at Pinecastle Air Force Base suffered wing failure and crashed northwest of Orlando, Florida, and west of Winter Park, Florida, while conducting a practice demonstration for the annual Strategic Air Command Bombing Navigation and Reconnaissance Competition at Pinecastle AFB. The wing commander, Colonel Michael Norman Wright McCoy, was killed in the crash; Pinecastle AFB was later renamed McCoy AFB in his honor.
On 4 December 1957, a MacDill Air Force Base B-47 exploded in mid-air over Choctawhatchee Bay, Okaloosa County, Florida. Parts were scattered over a wide underwater area that varied in depth from 20 to 30 feet. Assistance from U.S. Navy divers from the Mine Detection Laboratory, Panama City, Florida, the Underwater Demolition Team No. 21 from Little Creek, Va., the 3201st Boat Squadron, APGC, recovered most of the plane. The three crew were killed.
On 26 February 1958, an RB-47E Registration: 52-0720 crashed six miles south of Lancaster, OH on approach to Lockbourne AFB, OH. The aircraft hit the ground at an angle of 50 degrees. It was determined that the aircraft was allowed to get into an unusual attitude and/or high speed, through disorientation, from which there was no recovery. In actuality, a wheel door had broken away and prevented the control surfaces being fully active.
On 13 March 1958, two B-47s failed on the same date in separate incidents when the lower wing skin failed at the same structural location. One exploded over southeast Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing one crewman and raining debris over at least 8 square miles, witnessed by thousands of people on the ground. Two of the three men on a training mission from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, parachuted to safety. The third was trapped in the nose of the plane and died.
On 10 April 1958, a B-47 out of Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, exploded in flight behind the KC-97G tanker that was supposed to refuel it ; the KC-97 was unharmed, but the wreckage of the B-47 fell within a half mile of a highway and none of the crew survived.
On 22 November 1958, a B-47B crashed while taking off from Loring Air Force Base in Maine, killing all four crew members on board. The plane belonged to a unit at McCoy Air Force Base in Orlando, Florida. The plane was described as having reached two-thirds of the way down the runway, when it veered sharply to the right, eventually crashing 400 feet north of the runway. On 25 November 1958, a KC-135 of the 42d Air Refueling Squadron crashed on takeoff roughly in the same area as the B-47 three days before.
On 4 April 1959, a B-47, serial number 52-0320, crashed in the Santa Rita mountains, south of Tucson, Arizona, while attempting to land at the adjacent Davis-Monthan AFB. All three crew were killed. Investigators noted that a faulty altimeter was a contributing factor.
On 24 April 1959, Captain John S. Lappo, operating from Lockbourne AFB flew a B-47 with two crewmen on board under the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Following a general court-martial, he was grounded for life.
On 30 December 1959, a B-47B crashed at Torrejón Air Base, Spain, one minute after takeoff. The four crew members were killed in the crash.
On 31 March 1960, a B-47E, serial number 52-1414, of the 384th Bomb Wing (SAC), 545th Bombardment Squadron, Little Rock AFB, exploded inflight over Little Rock, Arkansas. Three of the four crew and two civilians on the ground were killed.
On 4 January 1961, a B-47 based at Pease Air Force Base, serial number 53-4244, crashed on takeoff; all four crewmen were killed.
On 24 February 1961, a B-47 crashed 10 miles southwest of Hurley, Wisconsin, while on a practice bombing mission from the 40th Bomb Wing at Forbes Air Force Base, Topeka, Kansas. Its four crew were killed. An engine was found 600 yards from the point of impact, indicating it detached prior to the crash.
On 2 May 1961, a B-47 crashed eight miles southwest of Hurley, Wisconsin, only a few miles from the scene of a prior B-47 crash on 24 February 1961. Two of four crew survived. Evidence shows that it was steeply diving when the crash occurred.
In January 1962, a B-47 based at Plattsburgh Air Force Base on a training mission crashed into the side of Wright Peak in the High Peaks in the Adirondacks of New York. All four crew were killed. Wreckage can still be found at the summit, including a landing gear strut and an partial engine. It had veered about 30 miles east due to inclement weather.
On 23 July 1962, a B-47 based at Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene, Texas, departed on a training mission through Montana. After crossing into Paradise Valley, it crashed into Emigrant Peak and exploded while turning toward the northwest. All four crew were killed.
On 3 August 1962, a B-47 based at Pease Air Force Base, serial number 52-0526, crashed on takeoff; all three crew were killed.
On 20 February 1963, a B-47 of the 98th Bomb Wing based at Lincoln AFB, Nebraska, crashed in Bashaw Township, approximately 3 miles north of the town of Comfrey, Minnesota. All four crew were killed. It had just completed a low-altitude, simulated bombing run near the town of Heron Lake, Minnesota, when the sixth engine failed, causing it to crash in a field, resulting in a 25-foot deep by 50-foot wide crater.
On 20 August 1963, a QB-47 veered off course on its landing approach at Eglin Air Force Base and crash landed on a road parallel to the runway. It was used for Bomarc Missile Program tests, normally operated from Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field Number Three (Duke Field), approximately 15 miles (24 km) north of the main base. Two cars were crushed, killing two occupants and injuring a third.
Data from Quest for Performance.
Data from Designations Of U.S. Military Electronic And Communications Equipment
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
The initial version of this article was based on a public domain article from Greg Goebel's Vectorsite.
The United States Air Force's 328th Weapons Squadron is an USAF Weapons School training unit located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The squadron's origins trace back to the 328th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) activated on 28 January 1942. The 328th Bombardment Squadron received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its gallantry during the raid on the Ploiești, Romania oil refineries during August 1943. The 328th flew the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Boeing B-47 Stratojet, Boeing B-50 Superfortress, and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress during the Cold War.413th Flight Test Squadron
The 413th Flight Test Squadron is part of the 96th Test Wing and is based at Duke Field, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. It performs flight testing on C-130 Hercules, CV-22 Osprey, MH-53 Pave Low, UH-1 Iroquois, and HH-60 Pave Hawk aircraft.
The first predecessor of the squadron was first activated during World War II as the 413th Bombardment Squadron. It served in the European Theater of Operations, where it earned two Distinguished Unit Citations for its combat actions. Following V-E Day, the squadron returned to the United States and was inactivated.
This squadron was again active from 1947 to 1949 in the reserves, although it was apparently never fully manned or equipped. It was active as a Boeing B-47 Stratojet squadron in Strategic Air Command from 1958 to 1962.
The second predecessor of the squadron, the 6513th Test Squadron was activated in 1977 at Edwards Air Force Base, California. In 1992, the two squadrons were consolidated as the 413th Test Squadron. The squadron was inactivated in 2004, but reactivated the following year at Hurlburt Field, Florida.415th Flight Test Flight
The 415th Flight Test Flight is a United States Air Force reserve squadron. It is assigned to the 413th Flight Test Group of Air Force Reserve Command, stationed at Randolph Field, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
The squadron was first activated during World War II as the 25th Reconnaissance Squadron. After redesignation as the 415th Bombardment Squadron, it saw combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, participating in the low level attack on oil refineries near Ploiești, Romania. It earned two Distinguished Unit Citations for its combat operations. After VE Day the squadron returned to the United States and trained with Boeing B-29 Superfortresses until inactivating in Spring 1946.
The squadron was reactivated in 1958 when Strategic Air Command (SAC) reorganized its Boeing B-47 Stratojet wings and placed one third of its bombers on ground alert. It was inactivated in 1962, when SAC's alert status was altered.
In 1994, the squadron was consolidated with the 6515th Test Squadron, which had been performing flight tests on McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, California, since 1989. It was inactivated in 1994, but in 2001 was activated in the reserve to perform flight tests on trainer aircraft.418th Flight Test Squadron
The 418th Flight Test Squadron is a United States Air Force squadron. It is assigned to the 412th Operations Group, Air Force Materiel Command, stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
The first predecessor of the squadron was activated during World War II as a heavy bomber unit. It served in combat in the European Theater of Operations, where it earned a Distinguished Unit Citation and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for its actions. After V-E Day the squadron returned to the United States and was inactivated at the Port of Embarkation.
The squadron was briefly active in the reserve from 1947 to 1949, but does not appear to have been fully equipped or manned. It served from 1959 to 1962 as a Boeing B-47 Stratojet squadron in Strategic Air Command.
The second predecessor of the squadron was activated in 1989 as the 6518th Test Squadron. The two squadrons were consolidated in 1992 as the 418th Test Squadron and have served in the flight test role.419th Flight Test Squadron
The 419th Flight Test Squadron is a United States Air Force squadron. It is assigned to the 412th Operations Group, Air Force Materiel Command, stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
During World War II, the 419th Bombardment Squadron was a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress squadron, assigned to the 301st Bombardment Group, Fifteenth Air Force. It earned Two Distinguished Unit Citations. In 1958, the squadron was activated as a Boeing B-47 Stratojet squadron as part of Strategic Air Command's nuclear force, but was discontinued four years later. In 1993, the squadron was consolidated with the 6519th Test Squadron, which had been conducting test operations at Edwards since 1989.490th Missile Squadron
The 490th Missile Squadron is a United States Air Force unit. It is assigned to the 341st Operations Group, stationed at Malmstrom AFB, Montana. The 490 MS is equipped with the LGM-30G Minuteman III Intercontinental ballistic missile, with a mission of nuclear deterrence.
The squadron was first activated in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. It served in combat until V-J Day. Following the war, it returned to the United States, where it was inactivated. The squadron was again activated in 1955 as a Boeing B-47 Stratojet unit of Strategic Air Command until inactivating in 1961. The following year, it activated in its current role as the 490th Strategic Missile Squadron.813th Strategic Aerospace Division
The 813th Strategic Aerospace Division is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Fifteenth Air Force at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, where it was inactivated on 2 July 1966.
The division was activated in 1954 as the 813th Air Division at Pinecastle Air Force Base, Florida as the headquarters for the base and its two Boeing B-47 Stratojet wings. It was inactivated two years later when the 19th Bombardment Wing moved to Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, leaving only the 321st Bombardment Wing at Pinecastle.
The division was again activated in 1958 at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho as an operational headquarters for Strategic Air Command (SAC) wings at Mountain Home and Malmstrom. It was also responsible for SAC units at forward deployment bases in Canada. The wing moved to Malmstrom in 1964 and was inactivated when its component wings were assigned to other divisions.817th Air Division
The 817th Air Division is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Strategic Air Command, assigned to Second Air Force, at Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire, where it was inactivated on 30 June 1971.
The division was activated in early 1956 to provide a single headquarters at Pease in anticipation of the move of the 509th Bombardment Wing to join the 100th Bombardment Wing there. The division also commanded the Pease host unit, the 817th Combat Support Group. As the Boeing B-47 Stratojet began to be phased out in 1965 and 1966, the division became an operational headquarters for dispersed Boeing B-52 Stratofortress wings in the Northeastern United States. In 1970 two of its wings began converting to the General Dynamics FB-111. It was inactivated in 1971 and its mission, personnel and equipment were transferred to the 45th Air Division.818th Strategic Aerospace Division
The 818th Strategic Aerospace Division is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Strategic Air Command at Lincoln Air Force Base, Nebraska, where it was inactivated on 25 March 1965.
The division was activated at Lincoln in 1954 as the 818th Air Division to provide a single headquarters for the base as the 98th and 307th Bombardment Wings returned from Korean War operations with the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and prepared to convert to the Boeing B-47 Stratojet. From 1962 until 1964 the division also commanded a wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. In 1962, the division assumed responsibility for a Post Attack Command and Control System squadron operating Boeing B-47 Stratojets. One month later, it was also assigned Offutt based Boeing EC-135s. performing the similar Looking Glass Mission.
The division was inactivated when the 307th Bombardment Wing inactivated, leaving the 98th Bombardment Wing as the only SAC wing at Lincoln.819th Strategic Aerospace Division
The 819th Strategic Aerospace Division is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Second Air Force of Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, where it was inactivated on 2 July 1966.
The division was activated as the 819th Air Division in 1956 to command two Boeing B-47 Stratojet wings that SAC was organizing at Dyess. "The division emphasized flying operations, flying training, and aircraft maintenance. In fulfilling its duties, the 819th participated in numerous tactical training exercises throughout its existence." Until April 1961, the division also provided supporting services at Dyess through its 819th Air Base Group.
After 1961, the wing became an operational headquarters for wings located at bases in the southwestern United States. It added SM-65 Atlas ICBMs, Boeing B-52 Stratofortresss and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers in 1962, and its B-47s were phased out by the middle of the following year. The missile mission brought with it a new name, 819th Strategic Aerospace Division.
The division was inactivated in 1966 and its component wings were assigned to other SAC divisions.820th Strategic Aerospace Division
The 820th Strategic Aerospace Division is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Strategic Air Command (SAC)'s Eighth Air Force at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York, where it was inactivated on 25 June 1965.
The division was activated as the 820th Air Division in 1956 to command the two Boeing B-47 Stratojet wings planned for Plattsburgh. However, the arrival of the second wing was delayed, and in 1959 the 820th was assigned two SAC Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic wings and air refueling wings at bases in New York and Maine. Although the second bombardment wing finally arrived at Plattsburgh, it remained a paper unit until it was inactivated.
By 1961, the division had returned to commanding the bombardment and refueling wings at Plattsburgh and managing support units there. It added SM-65 Atlas intercontinental ballistic missiles and EB-47 Stratojets of the Post Attack Command and Control System within the next year. The missiles brought with them a new name for the division, the 820th Strategic Aerospace Division.
However, by 1964 the division was reduced to commanding a single wing at Plattsburgh and an air refueling squadron in Delaware. When the Delaware squadron moved to Oklahoma and was reassigned in June 1965, the division was inactivated.825th Strategic Aerospace Division
The 825th Strategic Aerospace Division is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Strategic Air Command (SAC), assigned to Second Air Force at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, where it was inactivated on 1 January 1970.
The division was first activated at Little Rock by SAC as the 825th Air Division in August 1955 as the host and command organization for two Boeing B-47 Stratojet units, the 70th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and the 384th Bombardment Wing. From 1956 to 1959 the division's wings deployed to overseas bases periodically. After an organizational test, the 384th Wing began to maintain its alert aircraft at its home station and the 70th Wing became a training unit for reconnaissance crews flying the Stratojet. The division was awarded an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its participation in the test. A third B-47 wing at Chennault Air Force Base was briefly assigned to the division as well.
On two occasions, the division's operational units assumed a full alert posture. The first was in 1958, when the Lebanon and the Taiwan Strait crises occurred, and the second responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
As the B-47 force grew smaller in the early 1960s, the division's wings were inactivated, but the division added one of the Air Force's two LGM-25 Titan II wings and became the headquarters for SAC's two Convair B-58 Hustler wings. It continued this mission until January 1970 as the B-58 was retired and Little Rock was transferred to Tactical Air Command.Bailout at 43,000
Bailout at 43,000 is a 1957 American drama film directed by Francis D. Lyon and written by Paul Monash. The film stars John Payne, Karen Steele, Paul Kelly, Richard Eyer, Constance Ford and Eddie Firestone. The film was released on May 1, 1957, by United Artists.It was the last film from Pine-Thomas Productions then known as Pine-Thomas-Shane.Boeing XB-55
Boeing XB-55 (company designation Model 474) was a proposed Boeing aircraft designed to be a strategic bomber. The XB-55 was intended to be a replacement for the Boeing B-47 Stratojet in United States Air Force (USAF) service.John L. Whitehead Jr.
John Lyman Whitehead Jr. (14 May 1924 – 6 September 1992) was an American who served in World War II (as part of the Tuskegee Airmen), the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, the first to become a jet pilot instructor, and the first to fly the Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber.List of surviving Boeing B-47 Stratojets
The Boeing B-47 Stratojet is an American jet-engine Strategic Bomber used by the United States Air Force from 1951 until 1977. Of the 2,032 aircraft built, 23 survive today, none of which are airworthy, and all of which are located in the United States.Martin XB-48
The Martin XB-48 was an American medium jet bomber developed in the mid-1940s. It competed with the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, which proved to be a superior design, and was largely considered as a backup plan in case the B-47 ran into development problems. It never saw production or active duty, and only two prototypes, serial numbers 45-59585 and 45-59586, were built.Mole hole
A mole hole, officially designated the Readiness Crew Building (RCB), is a type of structure built by the United States Air Force at former Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases around the country during the 1950s and 1960s. RCBs were located adjacent to an Alert Ramp, also called a "Christmas Tree", where Ready Alert aircraft were parked. These aircraft were initially Boeing B-47 Stratojet aircraft armed with nuclear weapons, augmented by Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter aerial refueling aircraft. As SAC introduced newer bomber and aerial tanker aircraft into its inventory, the B-47 and KC-97 were later superseded by Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Convair B-58 Hustler, General Dynamics FB-111 or Rockwell B-1 Lancer bombers, augmented by Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker or McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender aerial refueling aircraft.United States aerial reconnaissance of the Soviet Union
Between 1946 and 1960, the United States Air Force conducted aerial reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union in order to determine the size, composition, and disposition of Soviet forces. Aircraft used included the Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber and—from 1956—the Lockheed U-2 spy plane specifically designed for high-altitude reconnaissance flight. The overflight program was ended following the 1960 U-2 incident.
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