|Academy \ Minicraft B17E\Fs|
There's a lot that can be said about the B17, and many many books and on line sources exist, so I won't repeat all that in depth other than a couple of "not a lot of people know that" (NALOPKT) bits, and will concentrate on Blood Red Skies.
The B17 rather surprisingly originated as a maritime patrol bomber. In the 1930s the US and their policy of isolation decided that the way to prevent enemy fleets (read Royal Navy!) attacking the US mainland would be to find and attack them by air. Boeing submitted their design and after some false starts what we now know as the B17 was born.
Everyone knows the USAAF famously used the B17 as a high altitude precision day bomber in the second half of the war. What is less well known is the RAF pioneered this by using B17Cs to raid Germany in daylight, taking advantage of the types excellent ceiling altitude and range. The RAF bombed from around 30,000 feet but found the extreme altitude and cold resulted in lots of problems with cloud obscuring the targets and equipment failures, and the raids were not successful and discontinued, with the surviving planes transferring to Coastal Command. The USAAF took account of this and tended to operate their B17s lower, and crucially in large numbers and tight supporting formations.
Operationally the B17 didn't really have that heavy a bomb load - usual load was about 4000lb, useful, but to put it in perspective that is the same as some of the Mosquito bomber versions. Of course the Mosquito didn't have any defensive weapons, and to be honest, it isn't a fair comparison as the Mossie breaks most if not all the rules. That being said B17s dropped more tonnage of bombs on Germany than any other USAAF bomber, and in total second only to the Lancaster. It is interesting to compare the two designs - one is a Flying Fortress, the other a Flying Bomb-bay, but that's for another time.
So anyway, back to BRS.
There are basically 3 versions of the B17 we will encounter in BRS. The first is the B17C, which saw service on day one of the Pacific war, and also was used by the RAF as mentioned above. This early version is quite a long way from the Flying Fortress we all know, lacking much of the later model firepower and protection. With only 4 .50 cal HMGs and 1 .30 cal all hand held on blister gun positions the type was really no better protected than other bombers of the period. In fact the hand held \ pivot mounted guns were pretty useless as the gunners struggled with the problems of slipstream and wind when trying to operate them, unlike the power operated turrets preferred by the RAF. One thing the USAAF did get right, and the RAF mostly didn't, was using the .50 cal rather than .303. Although the rate of fire on the smaller calibres was far higher, the effective range of the .50 cal and similar HMGs really compensated and allowed bombers to disrupt fighters attacks much further out than was the case with .303s.
B17 C 1941 Speed 6 (323mph) Ag 0 Fp (-) Multi Engine (4) 360 turret FP1 rear +1
In truth the B17C was a bit of a disappointment, particularly as an anti shipping bomber, though it did score some success as a long range patrol aircraft.
Lessons were learned and by the time the 8th Air Force was deployed to Europe with their B17E\Fs the Fortress was starting to live up to it's name. US doctrines called for daylight bombing and close formations for self protection against fighters and the B17F was up-gunned dramatically, adding a new tail gunners position, and dorsal and ventral powered turrets, all with twin .50 cal HMGs. Additionally the B17 received upgraded armour and other protection such as self sealing fuel tanks. Better engines helped compensate for the additional weight involved. F models continued to serve throughout the war.
B17E\F 1942 Speed 6 (318mph) Ag 0 Fp (-) Multi Engine (4) Robust 360 turret FP2 rear +2
The last B17 model to see lots of service is the G. Operational experience showed the B17s were more vulnerable to head on attacks, so a new "chin" turret was fitted to late F models and adopted for the G. Now mounting 13 (!) defensive guns. Carrying all that extra weight did reduce speed, but that was considered an acceptable trade off. The G models were phased in from 1943 and by the end of the war were the most numerous B17 encountered.
B17G 1943 Speed 6 (287mph) Ag 0 Fp (-) Multi Engine (4) Robust 360 turret FP2 rear +2, front +1
So why the interest in B17s? I hear you ask, when 1:200 models are "hard to come by" to say the least. Warlord don't do one, and given their production queue it is unlikely one will be coming any time soon. However I got an email from Armaments in Miniature saying their B17G was finally available - $14 (link to the site below). AIM also do B17Cs. Getting a B17 E\F is a bit fraught. There is a plastic kit from Academy that is very useful but now out of production, but it comes up on ebay every now and then so worth watching out for. Ares\Nexus do a very nice model of both the G & G for their Wings of Glory game but the price is usually quite steep -something around £30-50 on ebay at the moment . You can also get die cast B17 Fs and Gs but these are not great as gaming models as they are very heavy and bits keep falling off.
Armament in Miniature - G model not listed but $14, they also have a B17C