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This plane (41-24341) came off the manufacturing line together the second B-17F paris Fortress, yet was modified by Vega to come to be the XB-40. The succeeding YB-40 went into combat in a slightly different configuration, v the cockpit fairing cut short of the mid-dorsal position. Vega; Robert F. Dorr collection

We are reminded ceaselessly that how critical breakthroughs like bronze weapons, longbows, the stirrup, gunpowder, rifles, the airplane, the submarine, the machine gun, and many various other technologies changed the challenge of warfare and also often came to be deciding determinants on the battlefield. Not mentioned as often are the failures, the brilliant concepts that were no so brilliant, the technical dead ends, the badly conceived or bad employed weapons that either had no impact or actually contributed to defeat. “Brilliant Mistakes” is a continuing collection covering failure concepts, weaponry, tactics, and strategies, every one of which probably seemed favor a an excellent idea in ~ the time.

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Today, historians have a wide range of knowledge around the YB-40, the civilization War II aircraft that appears to qualify as the U.S. Wait Force’s an initial gunship.

This amendment B-17F paris Fortress bristled with gun barrels and also was sent out forth come guard American bomber formations high end Europe. What is missing from its background is the name of its creator. Who thought up the YB-40?

The AAF launched a regime for a “flying destroyer” or “flying hedgehog” that would guard against Luftwaffe fighter strikes by pour it until it is full the skies with a huge storm of machine-gun rounds.

“The record is unclear,” said Rob Young, a historian at Wright-Patterson Air pressure Base, Ohio. “It appears the YB-40 meets the an interpretation of a cheat – that is, a equine designed by a committee.”


Probably the finest thing to come the end of the YB-40 program, the chin turret, to be fitted to later model paris Fortresses. Robert F. Dorr Collection

Early in their service, Reid sent out a message ago to Washington requesting that no much more YB-40s be deployed come the European theater of Operations. There were at some point a complete of 20 airframes in the series, including 4 unarmed TB-40 trainers. However the dozen that made it overseas flew only around ten missions. The YB-40s were ultimately converted earlier to the conventional B-17F configuration.

After civilization War II, numerous versions that a impressive story were recounted by martin Caidin and also reiterated by valley Infield and also other writer in the men’s adventure magazines: 1st Lt. Harold Fischer, a bomber pilot in the Fifteenth Air force in Italy, was stated to have borrowed a YB-40 indigenous the Eighth wait Force. Fischer’s objective was to entrap Italian fighter pilot Lt. Guido Rossi, that was utilizing a recorded American P-38 Lightning fighter wearing U.S. Markings to shoot down stragglers on the method home from missions, initially posing as a friendly escort. Fischer lured Rossi – who knew plenty around the B-17F yet nothing about the much more heavily-armed YB-40 – and also shot that down. Both pilots made it through the war and also later met, according to the tale, but Fischer was eliminated in the 1948 Berlin airlift. In one variation of the story, Rossi consequently romances Fischer’s widow. Yet no YB-40 ever appeared in Italy and also no one called Fischer is provided among Berlin Airlift casualties. Apart from the truth that an Italian pilot v a various name, Lt. Angelo Tondi, flew a caught P-38 and also may have used that to deceive U.S. Bomber crews, the YB-40-in-Italy story shows up to be more fantasy than fact.

Specifications because that the YB-40 were little different 보다 those because that the B-17F. They included a wingspan that 103 feet 9 inches and also a business ceiling the 29,800 feet. Strength was listed by 4 Wright R-1820-65 Cyclone radial engines of 1,200 speech each. The aircraft had actually a crew the nine.

The arrival of the Mustang readjusted everything. It had actually the variety to escort bombers to their targets. It was a superb air-to-air fighter. The Luftwaffe now challenged an air-to-air evil one that to be far more formidable than a clunky, gun-equipped modification bomber.

A kindred experiment to change the B-24 Liberator to end up being a bomber-escort gunship turned out to be as well little, as well late. In February 1943, the heavily gunned XB-41 Liberator began tests in ~ Eglin Field, Florida. Initial experiments, including firing of every weapons, seemed promising, yet no complete evaluation to be ever conducted to see whether the heavier XB-41 could keep up v a Liberator formation. The AAF was still analyzing the XB-41 as soon as the YB-40s proved themselves impractical in actual combat.

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In November 1943, the 354th Fighter Group collection up shop in England and also began operations over the continent in the P-51B Mustang, later supplanted through the P-51D and P-51K models. The arrival of the Mustang readjusted everything. It had the range to escort bombers to your targets. It to be a superb air-to-air fighter. The Luftwaffe now confronted an air-to-air evil one that to be far an ext formidable than a clunky, gun-equipped modification bomber. As air tactics over Europe evolved, Mustangs eventually were maybe to range far ahead of bomber formations and to interact German fighters plenty of miles from your intended prey. The Mustang essentially neutralized the German wait arm. Throughout the last year of the war, German fighters virtually never obtained close enough to a bomber to allow a gunner on a B-17 to fire his firearms in combat.