Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Last revised September 3, 2001


The major production version of the Superfortress was the B-29, 2513 of which were built. 1620 of them were built by Boeing at its Wichita, Kansas plant, 536 by Martin at its Omaha, Nebraska plant, and 357 by Bell at its plant in Marietta, Georgia.

The B-29 differed from the test models in having 16-foot 7-inch diameter fully-feathering four-bladed propellers. The engines were Wright R-3350-23, with a war emergency rating of 2300 hp. Only the very early Wichita-built models were delivered in olive drab and grey camouflage paint, with the remainder being delivered unpainted.

The first production B-29s began to roll off the production lines at Boeing-Wichita in September of 1943. The first B-29s appeared on the production lines at Bell-Atlanta (Marietta) in February of 1944. The first Martin-Omaha B-29 was delivered in mid-1944. The new Boeing plant at Renton built only the B-29A version.

The crew of the B-29 was typically eleven, comprising pilot, copilot, bombardier, navigator, flight engineer, radio operator, radar operator, central fire control gunner, left side gunner, right side gunner, and tail gunner. The first six crewmen were housed in the forward pressurized cabin. The next four were housed in the rear pressurized cabin. The tail gunner was in a separate pressurized compartment in the tail. Later in the war, the crew size was occasionally increased to 13 with the addition of two radar/radio operators to man the radar and electronic countermeasures equipment.

Fuel was carried in fourteen outer-wing, eight inner-wing, and four bomb bay tanks, giving a maximum capacity of 8168 US gallons. An early modification added four tanks in the wing center section, bringing total fuel capacity to 9438 US gallons.

The early models of the B-29 carried the Philco AN/APN-4 Loran (LOng RANge) constant- beam navigation aid. It was replaced by the more sophisticated RCA AN/APN-9 system later in World War II.

The B-29 carried an AN/APQ-13 radar bombing/navigational aid set. This set was developed jointly by the Bell Telephone Laboratories and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory. It was manufactured by Western Electric, which was in those days the manufacturing arm of the Bell System. The radar antenna for this unit was housed inside a retractable 30-inch hemispherical radome located between the bomb bays and protruding below the fuselage a couple of feet when extended. Later in the war, the AN/APQ-7 Eagle radar unit was used. The Eagle antenna was mounted in a wing-shaped housing installed underneath the forward section of the fuselage. The unit was also devised by Bell Labs and MIT, and was manufactured by Western Electric.

There were numerous variations within the production blocks. Bowing-Wichita models reached block number 100 in increments of five, and Martin and Bell reaching -60 and -65, respectively.

Early combat experience indicated that the B-29 needed more protection against fighter attacks coming from the front. The forward dorsal turret armament was increased to four 0.50-inch machine guns on Boeing-Wichita production block 40. Bell-Atlanta introduced this innovation on Block 10, and all Martin-built B-29s had four guns in the top turret from the beginning.

In the initial B-29 models, fuel was carried in fourteen outer-wing, eight inner-wing, and four bomb bay tanks, giving a maximum capacity of 8168 US gallons. An early modification added four tanks in the wing center section, bringing total fuel capacity to 9438 US gallons. This extra fuel was first introduced on Block 25 aircraft from Boeing-Wichita, on Block 5 B-29s from Bell. Martin-built B-29s had these extra wing tanks from the beginning.

The R-3350-41 engine was introduced by Boeing on the Block 50 B-29. Both Martin and Bell followed suit on Block 20. The R-3350-41 had baffles and oil crossover pipes in an attempt to improve the cooling.

The trajectory of the shells fired from the 20-mm cannon in the tail was completely different from that of the bullets from the 0.50-inch machine guns, which made aiming difficult in combat conditions. Consequently, the 20-mm cannon was deleted from the tail position beginning with Boeing-Wichita production block 55, Bell-Atlanta block 25 and Martin-Omaha block 25.

By the end of the production run, all three companies had begun to use the R-3350-57 engine.

Lingering doubts of about the efficacy of the remotely-controlled armament system resulted in the completion of one B-29-25-BW (42-2444) with manned turrets. This plane featured two manned power-operated dorsal turrets and two manned ventral "ball" turrets, each with two 0.50-inch machine guns. There was a single 0.50-inch gun in each of two beam positions, and two additional 0.50 guns in a blister on each side of the fuselage nose. The remotely-controlled armament system of the standard B-29 proved to be adequate, and this unique armament scheme was not pursued any further.

The last B-29 was delivered by Boeing-Wichita in October of 1945. The last B-29 was delivered by Bell-Atlanta in January of 1945, when it was replaced by the B-29B on the production line. The last B-29 was delivered by Martin-Omaha in September of 1945.

Specification of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress:

Engines: Four Wright R-3350-23 Duplex Cyclone eighteen-cylinder air-cooled radial engines each with two General Electric turbosuperchargers, delivering 2200 hp for takeoff and having a war emergency rating of 2300 hp at 25,000 feet. Performance: Maximum speed 357 mph at 30,000 feet, 306 mph at sea level. Maximum continuous cruising speed 342 mph at 30,000 feet. Economical cruising speed 220 mph at 25,000 feet. Initial climb rate 900 feet per minute at combat weight. An altitude of 20,000 feet could be attained in 38 minutes. Service ceiling 33,600 feet. Maximum range was 3250 miles at 25,000 feet with 5000 pound bomb load. Practical operational radius was 1600-1800 miles. Maximum ferry range was 5600 miles, rising to 6000 miles with the extra fuel. Weights: 74,500 pounds empty, Normal loaded 120,000 pounds, maximum overload 135,000 pounds. Dimensions: wingspan 141 feet 3 inches, length 99 feet 0 inches, height 27 feet 9 inches, wing area 1736 square feet. Armament: Twelve 0.50-inch machine guns in four remotely-controlled turrets (two above and two below the fuselage) and in the tail, each with 1000 rounds of ammunition. In addition, early production blocks had a single rearward-firing 20-mm M2 Type B cannon with 100 rounds in the tail position. Later, two more guns were provided for the forward top turret. Maximum internal short-range, low-altitude bomb load was 20,000 pounds. A load of 5000 pounds of bombs could be carried over a 1600-mile radius at high altitude. A load of 12,000 pounds of bombs could be carried over a 1600-mile radius at medium altitude.

Serials of B-29 Superfortress

42-6205/6221		Boeing B-29-1-BW Superfortress
42-6222			Bell-Atlanta B-29-1-BA Superfortress
42-6223			Boeing B-29-1-BW Superfortress
42-6224			Bell-Atlanta B-29-1-BA Superfortress
42-6225/6228		Boeing B-29-1-BW Superfortress
42-6229/6232		Martin-Omaha B-29-1-MO Superfortress
42-6233			Bell-Atlanta B-29-1-BA Superfortress
42-6234			Boeing B-29-1-BW Superfortress
42-6235			Bell-Atlanta B-29-1-BA Superfortress
42-6236			Boeing B-29-1-BW Superfortress
42-6237			Martin-Omaha B-29-1-MO Superfortress
42-6238/6242		Boeing B-29-1-BW Superfortress
42-6243			Bell-Atlanta B-29-1-BA Superfortress
42-6244/6254		Boeing B-29-1-BW Superfortress
42-6255/6304		Boeing B-29-5-BW Superfortress
42-6305/6354		Boeing B-29-10-BW Superfortress
42-6355/6404		Boeing B-29-15-BW Superfortress
42-6405/6454		Boeing B-29-20-BW Superfortress
42-24420/24469		Boeing B-29-25-BW Superfortress
42-24470/24519		Boeing B-29-30-BW Superfortress
42-24520/24569		Boeing B-29-35-BW Superfortress
42-24570/24669		Boeing B-29-40-BW Superfortress
42-24670/24769		Boeing B-29-45-BW Superfortress
42-24770/24869		Boeing B-29-50-BW Superfortress
42-24870/24919		Boeing B-29-50-BW Superfortress
42-63352/63365 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-1-BA Superfortress
42-63366/63381 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-5-BA Superfortress
42-63382/63401 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-10-BA Superfortress
42-63402/63451 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-15-BA Superfortress
42-63452/63501 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-20-BA Superfortress
42-63502/63551 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-25-BA Superfortress
42-63552/63580 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-30-BA Superfortress
42-63737 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-40-BA Superfortress
42-63744 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-40-BA Superfortress
42-63750 		Bell-Atlanta B-29-40-BA Superfortress
42-65202/65204		Martin-Omaha B-29-1-MO Superfortress
42-65205/65211		Martin-Omaha B-29-5-MO Superfortress
42-65212/65219		Martin-Omaha B-29-10-MO Superfortress
42-65220/65235		Martin-Omaha B-29-15-MO Superfortress
42-65236/65263		Martin-Omaha B-29-20-MO Superfortress
42-65264/65313		Martin-Omaha B-29-25-MO Superfortress
42-65315/65383		Martin-Omaha B-29-30-MO Superfortress
42-65384/65401		Martin-Omaha B-29-35-MO Superfortress
44-27259/27325		Martin-Omaha B-29-35-MO Superfortress
				27297 was "Bock's Car"--the Nagasaki bomber.
				Now on display at WPAFB Museum, OH.
44-27326/27358		Martin-Omaha B-29-40-MO Superfortress
44-62329/62909		cancelled contract for B-29
44-69655/69704		Boeing B-29-55-BW Superfortress
44-69705/69804		Boeing B-29-60-BW Superfortress
44-69805/69904		Boeing B-29-65-BW Superfortress
44-69905/70004		Boeing B-29-70-BW Superfortress
44-70005/70104		Boeing B-29-75-BW Superfortress
44-70105/70154		Boeing B-29-80-BW Superfortress
44-75027/76026		Cancelled Contract for B-29
44-83894		Bell-Atlanta B-29-40-BA Superforrtress 
44-83900		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83904		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83908		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83911		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83914		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83917		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83920		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83923		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83926		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83928		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83930		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83932		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83934		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83936		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83938		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83940		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83945		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83947		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83949		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83951		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83953		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83955		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83957		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83960		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83962		Bell-Atlanta B-29-45-BA Superfortress
44-83964		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83966		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83968		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83970		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83972		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83974		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83976		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83978		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83980		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83982		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83984		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83986		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83988		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83990		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83992		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83994		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83996		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-83998		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-84000		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-84002		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-84004		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-84006		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-84008		Bell-Atlanta B-29-50-BA Superfortress
44-84010		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84012		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84014		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84016		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84018		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84020		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84022		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84024		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84026		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84028		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84030		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84032		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84034		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84036		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84038		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84040		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84042		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84044		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84046		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84048		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84050		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84052		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84054		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84056		Bell-Atlanta B-29-55-BA Superfortress
44-84058		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84060		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84062		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84064		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84066		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84068		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84070		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84072		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84074		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84076		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84078		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84080		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84082		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84084		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84086		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84088		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84090		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84092		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84094		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84096		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84098		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84100		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84102		Bell-Atlanta B-29-60-BA Superfortress
44-84104		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84106		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84108		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84110		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84112		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84114		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84116		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84118		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84120		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84122		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84124		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84126		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84128		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84130		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84132		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84134		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84136		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84138		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84140		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress - cancelled
44-84142		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84144		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84146		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84148		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84150		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress - cancelled
44-84152		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-84154		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress - cancelled
44-84156		Bell-Atlanta B-29-65-BA Superfortress
44-86242/86276		Martin-Omaha B-29-40-MO Superfortress
44-86277/86315		Martin-Omaha B-29-45-MO Superfortress
				86292 was *Enola Gay*, which dropped atomic
				bomb on Hiroshima.
44-86316/86370		Martin-Omaha B-29-50-MO Superfortress
44-86371/86425		Martin-Omaha B-29-55-MO Superfortress
44-86426/86473		Martin-Omaha B-29-55-MO Superfortress
44-87584/87633		Boeing B-29-80-BW Superfortress
44-87634/87683		Boeing B-29-85-BW Superfortress
44-87684/87733		Boeing B-29-86-BW Superfortress
44-87734/87783		Boeing B-29-90-BW Superfortress
				87766 to USN as P2B-2S #84031
45-21693/21742		Boeing B-29-90-BW Superfortress
45-21743/21757		Boeing B-29-97-BW Superfortress
45-21758/21792		Boeing B-29-95-BW Superfortress
			    	21789 to USN as P2B-1S BuNo 84028
			    	21791 to USN as P2B-2S BuNo 84030
45-21793/21812		Boeing B-29-96-BW Superfortress
45-21813/21842		Boeing B-29-95-BW Superfortress
45-21843/21872		Boeing B-29-100-BW Superfortress
45-21873/22392		Cancelled contract for B-29
45-40911/41735		Cancelled contract for B-29
45-42480/43079		Cancelled contract for B-29

Sources:


  1. Warbird History--B-29 Superfortress, Chester Marshall, Motorbooks International, 1993.

  2. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Mich Mayborn, Aircraft in Profile, Doubleday, 1969.

  3. B-29 Superfortress, John Pimlott, Gallery Books, 1980.

  4. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1960.

  5. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Bill Gunston, Military Press, 1989.

  6. Boeing Aircraft Since 1916, Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1989.

  7. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

  8. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Bill Gunston, Military Press, 1989.

  9. American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.