Boeing RB-47B Stratojet

Last revised April 27, 2000

RB-47B was the designation initially given to a proposed photo-reconnaissance version of the B-47B Stratojet. It was designed to replace the RB-29 and RB-50 aircraft which were serving in the long-range photo-reconnaissance role but which were rapidly approaching obsolescence.

The design of the RB-47B began in March of 1951. Shortly before October 1952, it was decided that the plane would feature the A-5 fire control system as well as the still-experimental J47-GE-25 engines. Since it was projected that the RB-47B would not be ready before 1954, and by the time that the RB-47B was completed it would more closely resemble the B-47E than the B-47B, the reconnaissance version of the Stratojet was redesignated RB-47E.

What actually became known as the RB-47B were 24 B-47Bs that were converted to reconnaissance configuration in 1953-54 by adding a special 8-camera heated pod in the forward bomb bay. Unlike the later RB-47E, the RB-47B could only provide daylight photographic coverage.

The YRB-47B was a later conversion of the B-47B specifically intended for the training of crews for RB-47Es. The 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (Medium) received its first YRB-47B in April of 1953, the 26th 3 months later.

In 1953 a decision was made to also equip 320th BW at March AFB with YRB-47Bs. The conversions were carried out by Douglas and by the Grand Central aircraft companies. Between July and November, 1953, the 320th received 44 YRB-47Bs. In November of '53, the Wing began to restore all of these planes back to bomber configurations, completing all re-conversions by March, 1954. Eventually, these were exchanged through "High Noon" and other programs.


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

  2. Post World War II Bombers, Marcelle Size Knaack, Office of Air Force History, 1988.

  3. The Boeing B-47, Peter Bowers, Aircraft in Profile, Doubleday, 1968.

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

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

  6. E-mail from Elliott Jaffe on YRB-47Bs to the 320th BW.