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America's first swept-wing multi-engine bomber
Near the end of World War II, Boeing aerodynamicist George Schairer was in Germany on a fact-finding mission when, at a hidden German aeronautics laboratory, he saw wind-tunnel data on swept-wing jet airplanes and sent the information home. Boeing engineers used that information to build a prototype with 35-degree swept-back wings, which they then tested in the newly completed Boeing High-Speed Wind Tunnel. The first B-47 flight took place on December 17, 1947.
The B-47's engine configuration was as unique as its general design. One pod containing two engines hung from each wing inboard, and a single engine hung farther out. Small outrigger wheels on the inboard engines kept the airplane from tipping over when on the ground. The aircraft had tandem bicycle-type landing gear under the front and back sections of the fuselage.
18 small rocket units in the fuselage were used for jet-assisted take-off (JATO) and then jettisoned.
The bomber needed defensive armament only in the rear because no fighter then in operation could attack from any other angle.
The B-47 became the foundation of the Strategic Air Command. Many of them were adapted for several specialized functions -- missile carrier, reconnaissance, trainers, etc.
Between 1947 and 1956, a total of 2,032 B-47's were built -- 1,373 by Boeing Aircraft Co., 274 by Douglas Aircraft Co., and 385 by Lockheed Aircraft Corp.
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This page was last updated on 05/18/2017.