The Boeing YB-40 Flying Fortress was a modification of the United States B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber aircraft, converted to act as a heavily armed escort for other bombers during World War II. At the time of its development, long-range fighter aircraft such as the P-51 "Mustang" were just entering quantity production, and thus were not yet available to accompany bombers all the way from England to Germany and back.Work on the prototype, Project V-139, began in September, 1942 by converting the second production B-17F-1-BO (serial number 41-24341) built. Conversion work was done by Lockheed's Vega company.
Close-up of the array of 50-cal guns on the Boeing YB-40 Flying Fortress.
The aircraft differed from the standard B-17 in that a second manned dorsal turret was installed in the former radio compartment, just behind the bomb bay and forward of the ventral ball turret's location. The single .50-calibre light-barrel (12.7 mm) Browning machine gun at each waist station was replaced by two of them mounted side-by-side as a twin-mount emplacement, with a mount for each pair of these being very much like the tail gun setup in general appearance. The bombardier's equipment was also replaced with two .50-calibre light-barrel Browning AN/M2 machine guns in a remotely operated Bendix designed "chin"-location turret.
The existing "cheek" machine guns (on the sides of the forward fuselage at the bombardier station), initially removed from the configuration, were restored in England to provide a total of sixteen guns, and the bomb bay was converted to an ammunition magazine. Additional armor plating was installed to protect crew positions.
The aircraft's gross weight was some 4,000 pounds greater than a fully armed B-17. An indication of the burden this placed on the YB-40 is that while the B-17F on which it was based was rated to climb to 20,000 ft in 25 minutes, the YB-40 was rated at 48 minutes. Part of the decreased performance was due to the weight increase, and part was due to the greater aerodynamic drag of the gun stations.
The first flight of the XB-40 was on 10 November 1942. The first order of 13 YB-40s was made in October 1942. A follow-up order for 12 more was made in January 1943. The modifications were performed by Douglas Aircraft at their Tulsa, Oklahoma center, and the first aircraft were completed by the end of March 1943. Twenty service test aircraft were ordered, Vega Project V-140, as YB-40 along with four crew trainers designated TB-40.
Because Vega had higher priority production projects, the YB-40/TB-40 assembly job was transferred to Douglas. A variety of different armament configurations was tried. Some YB-40s were fitted with four-gun nose and tail turrets. Some carried cannon of up to 40 mm in calibre, and a few carried up to as many as 30 guns of various calibres in multiple hand-held positions in the waist as well as in additional power turrets above and below the fuselage.
Externally, the XB-40 had the symmetrical waist windows of the standard B-17F and the second dorsal turret integrated into a dorsal fairing. In contrast, most of the YB-40s had staggered waist windows for better freedom of movement of the waist gunners, and the aft dorsal turret was moved slightly backwards, so that it stood clear of the dorsal fairing.