B-17F Model "Lady Luck" of the
773rd BS / 463rd BG
was the first B-17 variant to be produced by all of the "B.V.D." companies (Boeing,
Lockheed/Vega, and Douglas). Because of the pressing demand for the Flying
Fortress, Boeing provided blueprints and cooperation for the B-17 to be built at the
Douglas plant in Long Beach and the Vega plant in Burbank. Altogether, they would turn out
3405 B-17Fs: 2300 by Boeing, 605 by Douglas, and 500 by Lockheed/Vega. The first B-17F
flew in May, 1942. From the outside, the "F" closely resembled the
"E;" only the unframed, bubble-style plexiglass nose appeared different.
However, the B-17F featured hundreds of internal changes. The most significant were new
fuel tanks added in the outer wing. Other changes
included new Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone engines (capable of 1380 hp in short bursts),
paddle-bladed propellers, a stronger undercarriage, and better brakes.
Many B-17Es had been modified in the field to accommodate one or two
12.7 millimeter machine guns firing out each side of the nose through staggered Plexiglas
panels to counter frontal attack. B-17Fs included the nose guns as "standard",
more or less, though there were many variations on gun fit. Eventually, "cheek"
windows that gave a limited forward field of fire were fitted, with the left window
staggered ahead of the right to keep the two guns out of each others' way in the cramped
nose of the bomber. The Luftwaffe pilots quickly identified the B-17's vulnerability to
head-on attack. Field modifications, typically jury-rigged machine guns, didn't help much.
The stage was set for the B-17G, the definitive variant of the Flying Fortress.
B - 17G "Joker" of the 774th
BS / 463rd BG
|The B-17G was introduced onto the Fortress
production line in July of 1943, and was destined to be produced in larger numbers than
any other Fortress variant. The most readily-noticeable innovation introduced by the B-17G
was the power-operated Bendix turret mounted in a chin-type installation underneath the
nose. This turret was equipped with two 0.50-inch machine guns. Another
feature introduced by the G was having the waist guns being permanently enclosed behind
windows instead of being mounted behind removeable hatches. This made the rear fuselage
somewhat less drafty. On later production versions, it was found necessary to stagger the
waist gun positions so that the two gunners would not get in each other's way. The Sperry upper turret was also changed during production to a
Bendix model that had a taller top. The new turret was more agile and had better
The cheek nose guns introduced on the late
B-17F were retained, but were staggered so that the left gun was in the forward side
window and the right gun was in the middle side window, which reversed the positions used
on the late Fs. The cheek gun mounts bulged somewhat outward into the airstream, which
helped to improve the forward view from the cheek gun positions. On the last production
batches the radio compartment gun was not installed and the ammunition capacity of the
waist guns was increased to 600 rpg.
Camouflage paint was deleted from
production B-17Gs starting in January of 1944. B-17Gs were delivered in natural metal
finish. When production finally terminated in 1945, a total of 4035 B-17Gs had been built
by Boeing, 2395 by Douglas, and 2250 by Lockheed-Vega. The last Boeing-built B-17G was
delivered on April 13, 1945.
463rd Historical Society
P.O. Box 11045
Santa Ana, Ca. 92711