10 Things You Should Know About The B-17 and B-24 Gunships

10 Things You Should Know About The B-17 and B-24 Gunships | World War Wings Videos

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1. A B-17F Was The First In Line To Receive The Treatment

This Flying Fortress was so heavily modified that it was renamed as the “YB-40”. The change made it look like it had “tumors” of extra guns and gun turrets all over its airframe.

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2. YB-40s Had 18+ .50-Cal Machine Guns

To guard its 12 o’clock position, a powered chin turret was added under the nose – complete with twin .50-cals to make Luftwaffe fighters think twice about coming in head-on.

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The tail section also got larger windows for better visibility. Meanwhile, the radio compartment’s single .50-cal was replaced with an extra twin .50-cal turret.

Even the waist guns were doubled up to twin .50 mounts and were staggered to allow better freedom of movement.

3. Bomb Bays Carried Ammo, Not Bombs

With the YB-40s having so many guns, it forced the aircraft to forgo carrying bombs in the bay and instead prioritizing LOTS AND LOTS of .50-caliber bullets.

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The ammo supply on board was three times that of a standard B-17F, which would equate to roughly 11,275 rounds compared to the ordinary 3,900!

4. A B-24D Was Selected For A Gunship Conversion

Akin to the B-17 conversion, this new variant of the B-24 became known as the Consolidated XB-41.

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A Bendix remote-control turret was added to the chin, while another turret was added to the dorsal surface. The original dorsal turret was modified so it could be raised and lowered in flight.

Waist guns were also doubled up, meaning the bomber-turned-escort-fighter now had to carry 12,420 rounds.

The completed XB-41 was delivered on January 29, 1943 for testing.

5. The YB-40 Was HEAVY

The mutant gunship was 4,000 lbs heavier than the planes it was supposed to protect, while the extra turrets added more drag.

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Because of this, it took twice as long for the YB-40 to get to altitude and had an even harder time keeping up with the bomber formation because of the extra weight.

6. YB-40s Flew 48 Sorties

They were also accredited with five confirmed and two probable kills. One YB-40 was shot down and the test program was canceled. It was later used as trainers.

7. XB-41s Were Never Used

XB-41s were 6,000 lbs heavier than the standard B-24s. It was also very unstable in flights due to its misaligned center of gravity.

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They installed wide-blade propellers to get more thrust out of it, but the experiences of the YB-40 in Europe killed the program before it could develop even more.

8. Chin Turrets Were Reused

The chin turrets of the YB-40 were later reused on the later versions of B-17s and B-24s. In addition, the staggered gun formation on the waist was seen as an upgrade, so they kept that too.

9. A B-17G Carried An Experimental Gun Pod

Known to the crews as the “West End”, this B-17G had an experimental chin gun pod crammed with six fixed .50-cal machine guns. However, the gun couldn’t turn and was fired by the pilots.

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Unfortunately, this didn’t protect West End from flak. The B-17 was taken out by flak and the ensuing crash landing destroyed the gun pod.

10. A B-17 Once Had 6 Machine Guns On The Nose

666, also known as Lucy, was a Pacific-based photo-recon B-17 heavily modified by the Eager Beavers.

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To survive their dangerous photo-recon work, the Beavers stripped and lightened the plane by 2,000 lbs and added a fixed pilot-controlled forward-firing machine gun. They also added a twin mount in the radio room and in both waist positions.

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