Deathmatch: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber against Liberator Consolidated B-24 (who was better?)
<p type = "text" content = "In the final analysis, there is no real way to determine whether the B-24 or B-17 is really superior. However, the narrative of both types indicates that, of the two types, the Liberator's design was more versatile and considerably more advanced than that of the Flying Fortress."data-reactid =" 26 ">In the final analysis, there is no real way to determine whether the B-24 or B-17 is really superior. However, the narrative of both types indicates that, of the two types, the Liberator's design was more versatile and considerably more advanced than that of the Flying Fortress.
<p type = "text" content = "One of the most discussed arguments about the Second World War is the" best "bomber, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress or the Liberated B-24 Liberator. The argument began in the bars and service clubs, where crew members of both types met at rest during the war, and has continued since then. "Data-reactid =" 27 "> One of the most frequently discussed arguments to date.World War II is the" best "bomber, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress or the Liberated B-24 Liberator. The argument began in bars and service clubs, where crew members of both types met while they were not on duty during the war, and s & rsquo; Has been pursuing since.
This is particularly true for veterans who flew to England, where the B-17s were predominant in the Eighth Air Force and where many war correspondents reported on the air war waged against the United States. Germany while it was led by the crews of the Flying Fortresses. of 1943. It was among the crews of the B-17 and B-24 of the Eighth Air Force that the arguments were the strongest and it is among these veterans that they continued, since a consensus general has grown to the fact that the B-17 was the best bomber ever built.
<p type = "text" content = "Since the war, the argument that the B-17 was the best bomber of the two has often been perpetuated by aviation writers and historians, whose personal knowledge of the aircraft and aviation in general only consists of Few writers have ever used statistics or aircraft performance to prove their arguments, but have mainly relied on what they had heard from defenders of the rights of many B-17 group aficionados They mention photographs of B-17 who returned to the base with large holes punched by flak or fighters. Former B-17 crew members who have survived stress related to the house fight tour at to be the best. Similarly, veterans of the B-24s say the same thing about their plane. Children and grandchildren of B-17 veterans highlight comments from Stars and stripes Andy Rooney, a journalist and modern television personality, said that if he were to go to battle, he would have preferred to be in a B-17. Rooney never really said why he believes it. He did some B-17 and B-26 missions, but never did a B-24 mission, although he spent time with the 44th group of bombardments. The combat recordings of the two aircraft do exist, and they indicate that the views expressed by the defenders of the B-17 may well fall into the category of wishful thinking. "Data-reactid =" 30 "> Since the war, the argument that the B-17 was the best bomber of both aviation authors and historians whose personal knowledge of aircraft knowledge and aviation in general is often limited to what they have read or heard tell are rare Few authors have used statistics or performances But they have relied mainly on what they have learned from lawyers who defend One of the two sides of the argument: Many B-17 aficionados rely on emotion to try to reinforce their position, citing photographs of B-17 back to the base with big holes set in place by flak or fighters.Old members of the B-17 crew survived a constraint of the combat tour at to be the best. Similarly, veterans of the B-24s say the same thing about their plane. Children and grandchildren of B-17 veterans highlight comments from Stars and stripes Andy Rooney, a journalist and modern television personality, said that if he were to go to battle, he would have preferred to be in a B-17. Rooney never really said why he believes it. He did some B-17 and B-26 missions, but never did a B-24 mission, although he spent time with the 44th group of bombardments. Combat recordings of both aircraft do exist and indicate that the views expressed by B-17 defenders may well fall into the category of wishful thinking.
Both B-17 and B-24 are based on a philosophy of the early 1930s that long-range bombers could be used to defend the American continent against a foreign enemy by finding and flowing a invasion fleet while she was still several hundred miles from American Shores. This was the argument put forward by those who supported Brig. General Billy Mitchell was a view widely shared by the officers of the Air Force Corps, although future events would later prove that he was baseless.
The initial intention of the Army Air Corps was to develop a long-range, land-based heavy bomber that would have relegated the B-17 to the rank of medium bomber. Senior Air Corps strategists wanted a long-range bomber with a range of 5,000 kilometers, a concept that led to the design and development of the B-15, and then to B-19, again more ambitious. However, both types were undernourished and the army realized that the power stations then available were not enough to propel the type of aircraft that they really wanted.
As a compromise, the military chose to present a less ambitious project proposal and define the design requirements that ultimately led to the B-17 and B-24, as well as to the more powerful Boeing B -29 Superfortress. The ultimate goal was finally achieved with the advent of the long-range B-36, although this aircraft only came into service several years after the war.
The proposal – known as Project A – only stated that the aircraft would be a "multi-engine" bomber. With the exception of Boeing, all competing builders assumed that the army was looking for a twin-engine aircraft and designed their entries accordingly. Boeing, however, chose to increase power with two additional engines and therefore proposed a design that would increase range and payload beyond those possible with two engines. The Boeing prototype flew for the first time in 1935 and deliveries began in early 1937. The performance of the new B-17, however, allowed a maximum combat radius of 1,000 kilometers and the army began consider other solutions to extend the scope of typing. of its fleet of heavy bombers. A proposed 1500 km combat radius would lead to the development of the B-29 and B-32 that followed, but it also led the military to take a closer look at a new model proposed by Ruben Fleet's company, Consolidated Aircraft.
In January 1939, at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the commander of the US Army Air Corps, General Henry "Hap" Arnold, published the need for a four-engine bomber of a range of 3,000 miles, with a speed greater than 300 miles at the time. and a service ceiling of 35,000 feet. Building on the experience of other designers and on their own experience with long-range flying boats, Consolidated had a prototype of a dating model. from 1937 before the end of the year. Recognizing the possibilities offered by the new model, the Army has contracted with seven YB-24 prototypes for test purposes and 36 B-24A for operational use prior to the first flight of the aircraft .
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By the time the new aircraft entered production, the war had broken out in Europe and the United States had begun to provide aircraft and other military equipment to the British and French. France lacked long-range bombing capabilities and the United States agreed to supply a number of new bombers, which had been nicknamed "Liberator", allegedly by Winston Churchill.
The fall of France resulted in the cancellation of deliveries of all planes destined for France and the Liberators, which had been designated by the name of LB-30, were diverted for British use. Because of their longer range, General George Brett recommended, in the fall of 1941, to redirect several B-24s to British forces in North Africa, compared to those who were to go to England. As the war intensified, the US military chose to change the role of the B-24A and most of them were converted to long-range transport, while a few were equipped recognition cameras. The Japanese Pearl Harbor attack surprised one of the ground-based Liberators at Hickam Field on December 7, 1941.
Before the United States entered the war, the Flying Fortress and the new Liberator had been tested in action by the Royal Air Force. In the spring of 1941, the US Army sent 20 B-17Cs to England for the RAF to use to test their combat capabilities. Although members of the RAF crew congratulated the Flying Fortress for its ability to withstand enemy fire, the test proved to be a dismal failure for the much-publicized bomber. Boeing bombers have experienced mechanical problems, and their high-altitude daylighting bombardment accuracy has been well below that reported. The test ended suspiciously after the loss of action of the enemy on three of the 20 aircraft, the destruction of five of them in one accident and the blocking of others due to mechanical failure. In 39 sorties, only 18 flying fortresses managed to bomb a target. It is believed that only two bombs have actually hit the targets – and not a single German fighter has been shot by fortresses.
After the B-17s proved ineffective in British hands, the Army Air Corps sought to determine why. At first, the British were impressed by the Fort's ability to withstand gunfire, but this early confidence quickly faded as the expected results were not achieved. US military officials blamed this failure on the British for choosing to use the aircraft for bombing at very high altitudes, which resulted in unforeseen problems: frozen firearms, frosted windshields, and failures. l & # 39; oxygen. At high altitude, the aircraft lacked speed and firepower to cope with enemy attacks. Ironically, the RAF chose to operate the aircraft in conditions exactly the same as those proposed by many officers of the US Army Air Corps at B-17, even though the American training program provided for operations at altitudes. considerably lower.
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The British were also fortunate to try B-24s and, although the results from the US perspective were less optimistic than expected, the RAF preferred the Liberator to the Fortress because of its charging capabilities useful heavier. The main problems with the Liberator's tests were that the changes needed for the type of warfare in Europe took longer than expected, while the British preferred to use the high-capacity Liberators in the transport role. According to the report of the RAF crews who flew both the Flying Fortress and the Liberator, designed by the Americans, they could be conducive to a war in the Pacific where missions would fly over vast expanses of ocean, but they were too badly armed for daytime operations. Germany. They reported that the planes could be useful as night bombers.
In December 1941, the B-17s were serving US bomber squadrons for more than four years. In September 1941, two squadrons of the 19th bombardment group were dispatched from Hamilton Field, California, to ensure the presence of heavy bombers in the Philippines. Two months later, the 7th Earthquake Group Earthborne embarked to join the 19th. The first element of the air element left California December 6 and arrived in Hawaii in the middle of the Japanese attack.
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Part of the 19th bombardment group was destroyed at Clark Field on December 8, when Japanese bombers caught the planes on the ground while they were rearming for an attack on Formosa. Fortunately, part of the group had been moved south to a new airfield in Del Monte, Mindanao, and it would continue to fly for several weeks. At the outbreak of the war, only a few Liberators were used as means of transport in the Far East and a few others would be sent to Australia in the first weeks of the war.
It is in the Philippines and Java that American heavy bombers made their combat debut. While the B-17s managed to defend themselves against the Japanese, design flaws, especially in armament and armor, soon became apparent. In the confusion that followed the Japanese attack, the US military sent the "X Project", a complement of 80 heavy bombers, to strengthen the Allied forces in Australia, in order to support the forces Americans in the Philippines. Of the 80 aircraft, there were 15 LB-30 bombers that had been taken over by Britain, although only 12 had reached Australia. The LB-30s did not perform very well in Java (the B-17s either), largely because of the crew's inexperience. With the exception of the 19th Bomb Group crews that were brought from Del Monte to Darwin, few bomber pilots had more than a few hours of experience with four engines. Losses due to an accident were as great as those resulting from an enemy action. As the number of LB-30s decreased, the rest of the people joined the converted B-24As who were in the theater of transport operations, carrying cargo to and from Java and Mindanao.
When the exhausted bomber crews began returning to the United States after the unfortunate Java campaign, they were invited to report on their experiences. Returning pilots, most of whom had flown B-17s, reported that the B-17s had weathered the Japanese fighters better, although they obviously did not account for their own losses. because several LB-30s had been lost. ground attack and accident. The legend of the Flying Fortress's superiority over the Liberator was born. Yet, ironically, in a year's time, the famous B-17 would be about to come out of the war in the Pacific and the B-24 would have come in.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "The HALPRO project"data-reactid =" 51 ">The HALPRO project
<p class = "canvas-atom-text-canvas Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "After the Java campaign, the B-17 remained as as the only heavy bombers operating in what had become the area of operations of the Southwest Pacific, although a handful of LB-30s and B-24s have played a role in the transport sector. Battle of Midway in June 1942, but it was in the Middle East that the Liberator returned to combat in the role for which it was intended, namely a long-range bomber. The HALPRO project, named in honor of its commander, Colonel Harry Halvorsen, was originally to serve in China, where the War Department envisioned it as the nucleus of a heavy bomber force. equipped with B-24D that would start a strategic bombing campaign. against the Japanese homeland of bases in China. However, following the Doolittle raid, Burma fell and a massive Japanese offensive in China resulted in the loss of the area from which the bombers were to operate. HALPRO has been assigned to a single long-term mission against the Ploesti refinery complex in Romania, although plans still provide for the continuation of the squadron in China. "Data-reactid =" 52 "> After the Java campaign, B -17's remained the only heavy bombers operating in what had become the Southwest Pacific's operational zone, although a LB-30 and B-24 handle assumed the role of transport. Battle of Midway in June 1942, but it was in the Middle East that the Liberator returned to combat in the role for which it was intended, namely a long-range bomber. The HALPRO project, named in honor of its commander, Colonel Harry Halvorsen, was originally to serve in China, where the War Department envisioned it as the nucleus of a heavy bomber force. equipped with B-24D that would start a strategic bombing campaign. against the Japanese homeland of bases in China. However, following the Doolittle raid, Burma fell and a massive Japanese offensive in China resulted in the loss of the area from which the bombers were to operate. HALPRO has been assigned to a single long-term mission against the Ploesti oil refinery complex in Romania, although plans still provide for the squadron to continue its route to China.
While the detachment was in the Middle East, the Germans went on the offensive in Africa and the HALPRO force was ordered to remain in Palestine. Alongside the HALPRO diversion, Major General Lewis H. Brereton, commander of the 10th Air Force, was sent to the Middle East by India with as many heavy bombers as possible. It was only a handful of B-17's tired by the battle. HALPRO Squadron and the B-17s of the 10th Air Force went to Palestine, where other B-24s joined them to form the core of what was to become the ninth commandment of Air Force bombers.
Operating from Egypt and Palestine under the command of General Brereton, the B-24 HALPRO Squadron and an advanced element of the 98th Bomber Group began the US bombing effort against the machine German war. The attacks targeted the supply lines of the German Afrika Korps, particularly the ports and supply depots of Tobruk and Benghazi in Libya. American B-24s often operated in formation with Liberator squadrons of the RAF. In the end, the mix of B-24 and B-17 forces was exactly the same as that of the Java bomber forces. By mid-October, the US heavy bomber force in Palestine had 53 B-24s and only 10 B-17s. The B-24s in Africa performed well against German and Italian targets. The missions were carried out night and day while the ninth Air Force, very young, took advantage of the darkness to carry out missions on the targets most harshly defended.
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It was not until the late summer of 1942 that American heavy bombers began their operations in Western Europe from their bases in England. The first groups to arrive in England were B-17s, two of which would be transferred to North Africa in the fall of 1942 to become the heavy bombing force of Jimmy Doolittle's Twelfth Air Force. While commanders of the US Army Air Force in other theaters were not locked in the bombing method in the light of the day, the leaders of the eighth army of the United States. nascent air felt that there was a point to prove and that all missions were planned for day operations.
The first missions of the B-17 were carried out in September 1942 in Rouen, France. A little more than a month later, the 93rd Bomb Group, the first US B-24 US Army Group to join the pioneering group of the Eighth Air Force to fight from English bases. The 93rd then broke an impressive combat record, including the lowest loss rate of any heavy bomber group entered into combat with the Eighth Air Force in 1942. In fact, the loss per outage rate of the 93rd Bomb was inferior to that of all but three B-17 groups, two of which only entered combat in mid-1944. The other entered combat only on November 26, 1943, more than a year after the 93rd anniversary of his first mission.
For several weeks, the 93rd was the only group of B-24 to fight English bases. But on November 7, 1942, the 44th Bomb Group, which was actually the oldest B-24 group in the army, performed its first mission. After the 44th Bomb Group went into combat, it quickly gained the reputation of being a group of "unlucky", suffering heavy losses compared to other groups, though they appeared by group of two or two, and in one case as a result of an in-flight collision. Shortly after the 44th fight, three squadrons of the 93rd veteran were sent south to support the North African campaign, the fourth being assigned to a special mission. The departure of the 93rd left the 44th alone in the skies of occupied Europe, and their smaller number brought their B-17 peers to take further note of their losses, as do those who fought before them in Java, where the proportion of B-24 to B-17 was similar.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "1943: Dark days for the eighth B-17s of the Air Force"data-reactid =" 59 ">1943: Dark days for the eighth B-17s of the Air Force
Flying Fortress crew members began to say they did not need a fighter escort when the Liberators were there, as German fighters would attack the B-24's smaller force. However, despite the higher losses recorded during the first months of operation, the overall loss rate of the 44th Bomb group was not higher than that of the B-17 groups. In fact, they were less than 3.73% to nine and equal to two others, all but two entered after the 44th.
The summer and the beginning of the autumn of 1943 were dark days for the B-17s of the Eighth Air Force who were attempting deep penetration raids in Germany without escort of fighters. This is the period most often tackled by television documentaries and literature on the bombing campaign in Europe. The leaders of the Eighth were trying to prove that the pre-war concept that "the bomber will always pass through" was not unfounded. The British, however, decided to change tactics after their first experiences against the Third Reich. Due to heavy casualties, the RAF decided to halt its day operations and turned entirely towards night bombing operations. British military aviation leaders have suggested that the Americans do the same, but Eighth Air Force leaders have insisted that operations continue in the light of day.
On August 17, the Eighth Bomber Command deployed considerable effort in opposing a divided B-17 force at Regensburg and Schweinfurt. The 147 aircraft of the Regensburg force were to travel to North Africa. When they arrived, 24 bombers had disappeared, 17 of which had been shot down. Of the 230 bombers that went to Schweinfurt, 36 did not return – a total of 60 B-17s were lost in one day. Previously, the biggest loss in a day was 26 aircraft – all B-17s – lost on June 26th. The terrible losses of August 17 were repeated on October 14: a force of B-17 on 360 aircraft returned to Schweinfurt and 60 failed to return. Sixty B-24s were supposed to have reached the target, but the bad weather in their place of assembly caused a raking of the mission, although a small force of two groups went to Germany to create a diversion for the B-17s. These losses would be repeated several times early in 1944 in the B-17 formations of the 8th Air Force, but never so much among the B-24s flying alongside them.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Throughout the summer of 1943, the eighth Air Force B -17 crews found themselves alone in the skies during long and treacherous missions in Germany In early June, the two groups B-24 who composed the entire Liberator Eighth at the time have were removed from operations … and many B-17 crew members who had purchased the line that their planes were superior probably thought the B-24s were gone because they could not "hack the mission They probably did not know their own type had was removed from combat duties in the Pacific due to its shorter range capability compared to longer-legged B-24s. It is precisely this factor that led planners at the Army Air Force Headquarters in Washington to conclude that the B-24 was the only type capable of flying what was to be the heavy bomber's mission. more dangerous and the most ambitious in the world. Second World War. "Data-reactid =" 63 "> Throughout the summer of 1943, the crews of the eighth Air Force B-17 were alone in the skies during the long and treacherous missions in Germany. Both rumors abounded and many B-17 crew members who had bought the line that their planes were superior were probably thinking that the B-24s were gone because they had could not "hack the mission. "They were probably unaware of the fact that their own type had was removed from combat duties in the Pacific due to its shorter range capability compared to longer-legged B-24s. It is precisely this factor that led planners at the Army Air Force Headquarters in Washington to conclude that the B-24 was the only type capable of flying what was to be the heavy bomber's mission. more dangerous and the most ambitious in the world. The Second World War.
During the first week of June 1943, the 389th group of bombers arrived in England to reinforce the two groups already present. Three weeks later, after several low-altitude training missions over England, the three groups made commitments to North Africa, leaving most of their ranks on the ground . They joined the two groups B-24 of the ninth command of the Air Force, as part of a series of missions against targets along the Mediterranean, including Naples and Rome, and the German aerospace plants in Weiner-Neustadt, Austria.
Cependant, la véritable raison pour laquelle les B-24 étaient allés en Afrique était d'attaquer les raffineries de Ploesti, en Roumanie, dans une attaque audacieuse à basse altitude qui mettait les équipages à la portée de toutes les armes à la disposition des défenseurs allemands, des canons antiaériens de 88 mm aux des pistolets-mitrailleurs, sans parler des avions de chasse allemands et roumains. La mission du 1er août 1943 à Ploesti a coûté 30 avions B-24 sur 103 à la 8e Force aérienne, pour un avion à 171 avions, soit un taux de perte de près de 30% et considérablement supérieur à celui des B-17. sur les missions de Regensburg et de Schweinfurt. Vingt-cinq autres libérateurs ont été perdus des deux groupes de la Neuvième Air Force dans le cadre de la mission appelée «Raz de marée».
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Disparité dans la publicité"data-reactid =" 66 ">Disparité dans la publicité
Pas moins de 51 B-24 de la 8ème Air Force ont été perdus au cours des trois mois de présence des trois groupes en Afrique, soit une perte de près de la moitié des avions de ces groupes. Ironiquement, le 44ème a subi deux fois plus de pertes que le 93ème apparemment séduit. En proportion de leur plus petit nombre, les groupes B-24 du Huitième ont subi des pertes encore plus importantes au cours de l'été et de la «Chute des forteresses» que leurs pairs des groupes B-17. Le ciel était extrêmement dangereux pour les deux types, et les B-24 subissaient leur part de punition des combattants ennemis et de la flak.
<p class = "toile-atome toile-texte Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Quels étaient les groupes B-24? do not obtenir était la publicité. Alors que le monde savait tout des grandes batailles aériennes contre l'Allemagne menées par les B-17, très peu de choses sur les B-24 se retrouvaient dans le papier journal. "Data-reactid =" 68 "> Ce qu'étaient les groupes B-24 do not obtenir était la publicité. Alors que le monde savait tout sur les grandes batailles aériennes contre l'Allemagne menées par les B-17, très peu de choses sur les B-24 se retrouvaient dans le papier journal.
<p class = "toile-atome toile-texte Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Avec des milliers de mots racontant comment les braves garçons dans les B-17 étaient contre les Allemands, des images d'avions endommagés par la bataille ont commencé à apparaître dans Étoiles et rayures et des journaux américains illustrant la «robustesse» des forteresses volantes. En regardant de près ces images, qui ont été republiées dans de nombreux ouvrages sur le B-17 et la Huitième Air Force, une spécialiste des avions et de l'aérodynamique voit qu'une grande partie des dommages est limitée aux zones de la structure de l'avion qui ne sont pas nécessaires. pour le vol. De nombreuses images de dommages au combat de B-17 montrent des trous dans le stabilisateur vertical, voire des sections, dans le stabilisateur vertical, autrement dit la «queue», un profil aérodynamique dont le seul but est de garder le nez de l'avion en poursuite; cependant, des images de B-24 en train de se maintenir en formation avec l'un de leurs deux stabilisateurs verticaux complètement abattus – et un célèbre Liberator ont perdu l'un et l'autre après avoir été frappés par un bombardier britannique Lancaster, ont pourtant été renvoyés aux États-Unis Tour des obligations de guerre. L'énorme stabilisateur du B-17 représentait un objectif pour les rondes qui manqueraient la queue plus petite d'un B-24. "Data-reactid =" 69 "> Avec des milliers de mots racontant comment les braves garçons de B-17 allaient contre les Allemands, des images d'avions endommagés par la bataille ont commencé à apparaître dans Étoiles et rayures et des journaux américains illustrant la «robustesse» des forteresses volantes. En regardant de près ces images, qui ont été republiées dans de nombreux ouvrages sur le B-17 et la Huitième Air Force, une spécialiste des avions et de l'aérodynamique voit qu'une grande partie des dommages est limitée aux zones de la structure de l'avion qui ne sont pas nécessaires. pour le vol. De nombreuses images de dommages au combat de B-17 montrent des trous dans le stabilisateur vertical, voire des sections, dans le stabilisateur vertical, autrement dit la «queue», un profil aérodynamique dont le seul but est de garder le nez de l'avion en poursuite; cependant, des images de B-24 en train de se maintenir en formation avec l'un de leurs deux stabilisateurs verticaux complètement abattus – et un célèbre Liberator ont perdu l'un et l'autre après avoir été frappés par un bombardier britannique Lancaster, ont pourtant été renvoyés aux États-Unis Tour des obligations de guerre. L'énorme stabilisateur du B-17 représentait un objectif pour les rondes qui manqueraient la queue plus petite d'un B-24.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Conception des ailes – Quel modèle a le bord?"data-reactid =" 70 ">Conception des ailes – Quel modèle a le bord?
Un seul élément d'un avion, un avion, est absolument nécessaire pour voler et c'est l'aile. C’est un domaine dans lequel le B-17 possédait un avantage sur le B-24. L’aérodynamisme de la forteresse volante découle des conceptions de la fin des années 20 et du début des années 30, qui se caractérisent par une corde large, la largeur de l’aile depuis le bord de fuite et une portée plus courte. L’argot britannique «cerf-volant» est approprié pour le B-17, car l’immense aile a procuré une formidable portance qui a permis de créer une plate-forme de bombardement stable et, du moins dans l’esprit des fans du B-17, a procuré une portance accrue précieuse dans le cas de perte de puissance sur un moteur. Le B-24, quant à lui, intégrait une toute nouvelle conception d’aile à la pointe de la technologie aéronautique en 1937. La longue et étroite Davis Wing était connue sous le nom d’aile «High Ratio», ce qui signifie la portée est proportionnellement beaucoup plus grande que la corde, une caractéristique qui offre une traînée considérablement réduite et des performances accrues sur les avions les plus lourds – c'est pourquoi le B-24 était considérablement plus rapide que le B-17.
The strength of an airplane wing is in the spar, the piece of wood or metal around which the wing is constructed of ribs and stringers, then covered by a metal or fabric skin. If the spar on the wing of the B-24 was hit by flak or an explosive cannon round, it was likely to fail, sending the airplane into a spin toward the ground. However, if the spar on a B-17 was hit, the results were the same. As with the huge vertical stabilizer, the wider wing of the B-17 often resulted in hits in noncritical areas that missed the spar and would have passed harmlessly in space behind the slimmer wing of the B-24.
Part of the B-17 myth is its “rugged construction.” However, in the aviation world, “rugged” and “weight” are practically synonymous, and the fact is that the Liberator was considerably heavier than the B-17 in all models. The empty weight of an airplane is the sum of the weight of the components used in its construction—including the ribs, spars, stringers, and longerons that form the wings, the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, and the fuselage. If the B-17G was so much more “rugged” than the B-24J, why did it weigh 20 percent less standing empty? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that there was more dead space in the huge airfoils of the B-17 where hits could do little damage. The larger wings and vertical stabilizer of the B-17 could take hits that did only superficial damage because they missed crucial components that would cause structural failure if they were damaged.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Engine Power On Equal Measure" data-reactid="74">Engine Power On Equal Measure
One area in which the B-17 and all models of the B-24 were completely equal was in the power of their engines. Both the Flying Fortress and the Liberator were equipped with engines that were flat-rated at 1,200 shaft horsepower each at takeoff—for a total of 4,800 hp on an airplane with all engines running. Yet, in spite of the heavier airframe of the B-24, it was considerably faster than comparable models of the B-17 and carried a similar payload over longer distances and a considerably larger one on shorter legs. By the end of the war, the Army had increased the gross weight of the B-17G to the point that it could carry a bomb load almost as great as that carried by the B-24J, but at a sacrifice in airspeed that made the Fortress more than 50 miles per hour slower at normal cruise speed. The one area in which the B-17 had better performance, at least in theory, was that the airplane’s lighter weight allowed it to operate at higher altitudes. This was only true with light payloads and reduced fuel, though.
In January 1945, Eighth Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle wrote a letter to Army Air Forces chief of procurement General Barney Giles in which he expressed his preferences for the B-17 over the B-24 for his command. However, the circumstances of Doolittle’s letter are somewhat suspect. He wrote it at a time when the War Department was in the process of cutting back on aircraft production and was making the decision as to which types to continue in production. As the only combat commander at the numbered air-force level who favored B-17s, Doolittle may very well have been concerned about replacements. Within four months after the letter was sent to Washington, the last B-17 to be built by Boeing rolled off the assembly line. Liberator production continued for several weeks after B-17 production ceased, and was only suspended when it became apparent that the war would soon be over.
Doolittle’s letter is interesting because he wrote it at a time when losses in his command had been declining for some time while his sister unit in the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, the Fifteenth Air Force, was continuing to sustain fairly heavy losses among its force of B-17s and B-24s. Yet no preference was shown for B-17s in the Fifteenth Air Force, where the proportion of Liberators to Forts was reversed from that of the Eighth in England. The heavier losses among Fifteenth Air Force groups were due in part to the longer missions over enemy territory, while two of the most heavily defended targets in Europe—the oil fields at Ploesti and aircraft factories at Wiener-Nuestad, Austria—lay within the Fifteenth’s area of responsibility. On an ironic note, losses among Fifteenth Air Force groups increased even while they decreased in the Eighth as Allied ground forces closed in on Germany.
Which was the better airplane? In reality, it is probably accurate to say that for the kind of war fought by the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces in Europe, there was really very little difference. Advocates of the superiority of the B-17 are surprised to learn that their per-sortie overall loss rate was nearly half a percent higher among Eighth Air Force groups than that of their peers who flew B-24s. When comparing the number of sorties flown and losses sustained by the two types, the difference is even greater. Groups flying B-17s flew 60.38 percent of sorties flown by the Eighth Air Force and sustained 69.75 percent of the losses, while B-24 groups flew 29.77 percent of the sorties yet sustained only 26.1 percent of the heavy bombers lost. Groups that operated both types flew 9.85 percent of the sorties and took 4.14 percent of the losses.
Most who look at these statistics quickly jump to the conclusion that the B-17 losses were heavier because of the period in 1943 when they were going it alone on deep-penetration missions over Germany. This theory is contradicted by the fact that Eighth Air Force B-24 groups suffered losses that were even higher on a per-group basis than those of most B-17 groups during the same time frame. Furthermore, the overall losses were lower for the three B-24 groups that were in combat in the summer of 1943 than those for most B-17 groups.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Was the B-17 Safer?" data-reactid="80">Was the B-17 Safer?
Even more astounding, the last seven Eighth Air Force B-17 groups to enter combat, all of which began their missions during a time when more and more B-24 groups were entering combat, flew 16.93 percent of all sorties and took 22.28 percent of the losses. Yet seven B-24 groups that entered combat during the same time frame flew almost the same percentage of sorties—16.85 percent—but sustained only 14.99 percent of the losses, a difference of more than 5 percent. In the Eighth Air Force, 1.43 percent of all heavy-bomber sorties resulted in an aircraft missing in action. In B-17 groups, 1.66 percent of the sorties resulted in a loss, while in B-24 groups the loss rate was 1.26 percent, a difference of 0.4 percent. These figures relegate to myth the belief that the B-17 was the “safer” airplane. It is also worth noting that the Eighth Air Force B-24s were often used on tactical missions at lower altitudes where ground fire was more effective after the invasion, while in the strategic role their formations operated below the B-17s, where the flak was thicker.
In the Pacific Theater, there was no doubt as to which type was “best” because it became an all-B-24 region by the end of 1943. General George Churchill Kenney chose the B-24 as the heavy bomber for his theater because, unlike the daylight-bombing crowd that had gone to Europe, he had no particular preference for the B-17. Since the European Theater of Operations had been given precedence in the conduct of the war, the Eighth Air Force had priority in equipment and was receiving the new B-17 groups that had already been formed before the outbreak of the war. Before he went to Australia to command the Allied air forces in the Southwest Pacific Area of Operations, Kenney was told he would have to function with only the two B-17 groups that were already in the theater, but that he could have one group of B-24s that was then in the training pipeline.
General Kenney began his World War II combat career in the Pacific with two heavy-bomber groups under his command, the 19th and 43rd, both of which were equipped with B-17s and had been in combat since early in the war. The 19th had been in continuous combat since December 8, 1941, and was already worn out. In late 1942, the 90th Bomb Group arrived in Australia with four squadrons of B-24Ds. Shortly after the 90th arrived, Kenney sent the 19th back to the United States. The 90th got off to a shaky start due to cracks in the nose struts of its airplanes, but once its B-24s began combat operations, they quickly proved superior to the B-17 for the kind of war being fought in the Southwest Pacific. Missions were long and required considerable distances over water, conditions for which the Liberator had been created.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "The B-24 in the Pacific Theater"data-reactid =" 84 ">The B-24 in the Pacific Theater
Beginning in the spring of 1943, the 43rd Bomb Group replaced its B-17s with B-24s, ending the combat career of the Flying Fortress in the Pacific. Not a single B-17 bomber ever appeared in the skies over Japan while hostilities were under way. Just as the 43rd began converting to the Liberator, the 380th Bomb Group arrived in Australia and began combat operations with B-24s. The 22nd Bomb Group, which had entered combat with B-26s, then was equipped with B-25s, would also convert to the B-24. Operating from Darwin, the men of the 380th utilized the long-range capabilities of their Liberators by flying a mission to attack the oil-refining complex at Balikpapan, Borneo, a flight that kept the crews in the air for as long as 17 hours.
On the Asian mainland, Liberators assigned to the 7th Bomb Group of the Tenth Air Force were flying 14-hour missions from bases in India to attack targets as far away as Bangkok, Thailand. Other long-range missions were being flown by B-24s assigned to the 28th Composite Group in the Alaska Command. By the end of the war, 28th B-24s were flying missions from the Aleutians against targets in the northern home islands of Japan. The extremely long-range missions flown in the Pacific would have been impossible with the shorter legged B-17s.
The B-24 became a key factor in the plans of Generals Douglas MacArthur and Kenney as they sought to push the Japanese farther and farther north away from Australia and back toward Japan. The MacArthur/Kenney strategy was to isolate major Japanese installations with air power, while capturing terrain on which to construct airfields from which to launch B-24s on long-range missions that eventually were reaching all the way to the Philippines.
As the war moved northward, Far East Air Forces Liberators began attacking the Japanese homeland. Kenney and his bomber commanders worked to extend the range of the four-engine bombers until 2,400-mile round-trip missions were being flown routinely by B-24s. In comparison, the average mission flown by B-17s in Europe was less than 1,600 miles.
Missions by B-24 crews in the Pacific were considerably different from those of their peers in Europe. Much of the flying was over water, which reduced the exposure of the bomber crews to flak to a small percentage of mission time in comparison to the constant exposure faced by Eighth Air Force crews prior to the Normandy invasion. Kenney had no point to prove in regard to daylight bombing, and often his crews struck the most heavily defended targets at night, thus further reducing the exposure of the aircraft and crews. Consequently, B-24s in the Pacific flew missions at much lower altitudes than heavy bombers in Europe, and thus achieved much greater accuracy with their bombs. Shortly after General Kenney arrived in Australia, he introduced the concept of low-altitude “skip-bombing” by heavy and medium bombers. Although the skip-bombing role was assumed by the twin-engine A-20 and B-25 gunships that became important weapons in the Southwest Pacific, some B-24s were modified with radar equipment to become “snoopers,” which flew at night on daring low-level attacks against Japanese shipping.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Converted to Transport Use" data-reactid="90">Converted to Transport Use
Another use of the Liberator that proved extremely valuable to the war effort was as a long-range transport. Stripped of guns, armor, and other equipment, the transport version of the B-24 could carry a 10,000-pound payload up to 1,000 miles, or 6,000 pounds over 3,300 miles. Most of the original B-24s delivered to the Army Air Corps were converted into transports, as were about half the LB-30s that were repossessed from the British. In 1942, Ford Motor Company began converting B-24Ds into the C-87 transport on the assembly lines at the Willow Run Plant in Michigan for a burgeoning military airline that was soon operating the converted Liberators throughout the world. In early 1943, a squadron of C-87s was sent to India’s Assam Valley for operations across the Himalayan Hump into China. The Liberator also played the major role in the antisubmarine Battle of the Atlantic, becoming a weapon greatly feared by German U-boat crews.
While the Liberator proved to be an extremely versatile airplane, the Flying Fortress was also used for other roles, though in much more limited fashion than its sister bomber. In the Pacific, both B-17s and B-24s were converted for transport use after they were replaced in combat units. The Fifth Air Force converted a B-17 into an executive transport for General MacArthur’s personal use. The Eighth Air Force used B-17s as weather-reconnaissance aircraft, while their most prolific noncombat role was as lifeboat-carrying search and rescue (SAR) aircraft with the Air Transport Command. It was as an SAR airplane that several B-17s survived the war, while all but a handful of B-24s were scrapped.
In the final analysis, there is no real way to determine if either the B-24 or the B-17 was truly superior. But, the record of the two types indicates that, of the two, the Liberator design was more versatile and considerably more advanced than that of the Flying Fortress. The combat records of both types contradict the assertions that aircrews flying B-17s were “safer” than those in B-24s. The argument as to which was the best can never be settled. As long as there are still two surviving heavy- bomber veterans, one from each type, the B-17 veteran will believe his airplane was best, while the B-24 vet will know better.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Originally Published January 5, 2019 " data-reactid="94">Originally Published January 5, 2019
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "This article by Sam McGowan originally appeared on the Warfare History Network." data-reactid="95">This article by Sam McGowan originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.