The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

YB-40 An interesting aircraft.......

I ran across this story several days ago checking out a historical website and I was surprised to see this story.  I always wondered why they didn't make B-17 gunships, kinda like the "Q" ships they were using against German raiders and submarines.  Well apparently they did and it was a good idea but it had practical issues.  I always liked the B-17's.  I remembered watching the old series "12 o clock High" .   I also had several B-17 models I had built.  I still have 1 model, I bought 20 years ago and it is still in the box.   I also have other stuff from B-17's
                This picture is in my Bonus room

As is this one
 This is how I have it paired up.

I also saw a story on the History channel show called "Dogfights" and the story was titled "Long odds", the B-17 was called "Old 666" and here is her story:
By 1943, Old 666, tail number 41-2666, had suffered heavy battle damage and had gained a reputation as a cursed bomber, often coming back from missions with heavy damage. Grounded at Port Moresby Airport, it was parked at the end of the runway where other aircrews could cannibalize it for needed parts. A military photographer told Zeamer, "I know where there’s a bomber, but no one will fly it anymore because every time it goes out it gets shot to hell!"
Captain Zeamer, who had been unable to acquire a new bomber of his own because of discipline problems within the crew, had the bomber towed out of the 'bone yard' and, with enormous effort, not only restored the badly battered aircraft to flight status but made many changes.
They included increasing the number of machine guns from 13 to 19, replacing the waist gunners' standard single guns with twin guns, replacing all .30 cal machine guns with the larger and more powerful .50 cal, and adding a fixed-position gun that could be fired from the pilot's station. Zeamer's crew put guns where they did not even need them, and left spare machine guns on the aircraft's catwalk; if a gun jammed at a critical moment they could dump it and quickly replace it. They also mounted a gun behind the ball turret near the waist. These modifications made Old 666 the most heavily armed bomber in the Pacific Theater.


The YB-40 was crammed with ammunition . They  carried  triple supplies , 11,275 rounds compared to 3,900 rounds  carried on a standard B-17F. The aircraft was modified with an additional BENDIX turret mounted in the place of the radio compartment guns. Additionally a TWIN  CHIN turret was mounted  and the SINGLE. waist gun was replaced  by TWIN GUN mounts . Both waist guns and TWIN GUNS  were  hydraulically boosted for better control. Receptacles for increased ammunition were provided for all positions.

 he YB40s retained full bombing capabilities although seldom used , due to the extreme weight of the extra  ammunition load. Their career came to a quick end when it was discovered that the heavier YB-40s could not keep pace with the mainbomber stream they were  intended to protect . Since no one wanted to be a straggler in the  campaigns against the LUFTWAFFE the  YB-40 s  were now more a  burden than a help. Although this aircraft provided massive firepower, the two additional gun positions on each ship did not add  materially to the combined firepower of a Group formation. By Aug, 1943 all the YB-40s were withdrawn from combat and the YB-40 Program was discontinued

Front top turret2,500
Aft top turret3,300
Ball turret300
Waist guns1,200
Tail guns1,200

Altogether of the 59 aircraft dispatched, 48 sorties were credited. Five German fighter kills and two probables (likely kills) were claimed, and one YB-40 was lost, shot down on the 22 June mission to Hüls, Germany. Tactics were revised on the final five missions by placing a pair of YB-40s in the lead element of the strike to protect the mission commander.
Overall the concept proved a failure because the YB-40 could not keep up with standard B-17Fs, particularly after they had dropped their bombs .Despite the failure of the project as an operational aircraft, it led directly to the Bendix chin turret's fitment on the last 86 Douglas-built B-17F-75-DL production block aircraft,and were part of the standardized modifications conspicuous on the final production variant of the B-17, the B-17G:
  • Chin turret (first introduced on the last 86 Douglas-built "final production" blocks of the B-17F-DL aircraft)
  • Offset waist gun positions
  • Improved tail gunner station with much larger windows, usually nicknamed the "Cheyenne", after the Cheyenne modification center.
Once the test program ended, most of the surviving aircraft returned to the U.S. in November 1943 and were used as trainers. 42-5736 ("Tampa Tornado") was flown to RAF Kimbolton on 2 October 1943 where it was put on display and later used as a group transport. It was returned to the United States on 28 March 1944. All of the aircraft were sent to reclamation, mostly at RFC Ontario in May 1945, being broken up and smelted. (A couple of the YB-40s can be seen in the 1946 movie The Best Years of Our Lives, in the famous scene shot at the Ontario "graveyard".) No airframes were sold on the civil market.


  1. They did get some people's attention though! :-)

  2. They did get some people's attention though! :-)

  3. Stop the presses! There is no way anyone used the numbers "666" on a plane. LOl. Great post! Loved the history lesson.

  4. Stop the presses! There is no way anyone used the numbers "666" on a plane. LOl. Great post! Loved the history lesson.