The B-17F was essentially a production version of the B-17E after all the improvements and modifications were incorporated into the design. In 1943 the majority of B-17s used by the Eighth were F models, which were very similar to the early E models. The main visible changes were the new plexiglas nose and the paddle-blade propellers. Other production changes in the F model included new and more powerful engines, a new electrical system, and an improved oxygen system. The field modifications to the B-17 included fitting nose guns through the plexiglass and adding “cheek” guns to counteract the Luftwaffe’s head-on attacks.
Like the B-17E, combat experience pointed out problems with B-17F design, which were rapidly fixed during the production run. Major improvements done while the B-17F was in production included the addition of external bomb racks, cheek guns (initially a mod center improvement), and the Bendix chin turret which became a standard on the B-17G.
The defensive armament was increased to 11 .50-cal. machine guns including increased frontal protection in the form of cheek guns. More powerful engines and improved propellers allowed for a maximum bomb load of 8,000 pounds. The B-17F could carry almost double the bomb load of any previous version, but the normal cruise speed dropped by almost 70 mph due to a large increase in aircraft gross weight. Three thousand four hundred and five F models were built by three manufacturers: Boeing (2,300), Douglas (605) and Lockheed-Vega (500).
The last B-17E rolled out of the assembly line 28 May 1942, and only two days later the first production version of the new modification was released, tested and delivered. Although it contained more than 400 changes compared to the specification of its predecessor, variant F could only be distinguished by a single-piece transparent transparent bow lantern. The changes were, however, extremely important: a new ball turret, external bomb racks, wide-blade screws, improved oxygen system, dust filters on the carburettor air intakes, reinforced chassis, dubbed brake system, additional photo equipment, electronic communication between the autopilot and the Norden bomb, machine gun in the bow. All this was combined with Wright R-1820-97 engines in place of Wright R-1820-60, additional fuel supply.
The prototype of model F was not built, the first sample was adopted in one day. The assembly lines of the companies "Vega" and "Douglas" went into use and in the next 15 months 2400 B-17F were produced. The first strike by the US armed forces in German territory was the raid on 27.1.43 on the port of Wilhelmshaven by the B-17F forces assigned to the 91st, 301th, 305th and 306th BG; while two single B-17s spent an exhausting raid on Emden. "Dairy road" because of bad weather was scheduled for February, but March was without problems and with the participation of the legendary P-47 Thunderbolt. "Jug", short for "Juggernaut" is one of the incarnations of the Hindu god Siva and, at the same time, one of the nicknames of a P-47 fighter) made its debut in a fighter raid over Holland, and at least now there was an effective escort back and forth. On March 18, automated management was used for the first time over Vegazak.
The Luftwaffe mounted a strong resistance to the raid, but at this stage, the lack of coordination dulled the severity of their attacks, the last time this situation was observed when the 8th AF was studying the coast. Other known raids during this period were carried out against the factories "Renault" in Bilancourt, the plant "Focke-Wulf" in Bremen, Kiel, Antwerp, Kurtre, Yumuiden, Heroia, Trondheim and Kassel. These seven months of operations, however, were only a prologue: from August 8th AF, in cooperation with BC RAF, began the task, which almost completely led to the end of unscreened day-raids. On August 17th, in a simultaneous day-to-day strike against ball bearing and aircraft manufacturing enterprises in Schweinfurt and Regensburg, the 8th AF lost 60 aircraft from enemy operations,
The forces that attacked Regensburg proceeded further to North Africa and, after repairing the damage, returned to England with a raid on the Focke-Wulf factories in Bordeaux. The cars shot down in this raid brought weekly losses to hundreds of B-17s. Another week with comparable losses and the 8th AF could cease to exist. Luftwaffe found the antidote. The strikes in September, based on the possibilities, were weak, and the 8th AF carefully selected its goals. Such bad weather was used with dense clouds, in which interceptors could not operate. Night strikes were carried on Billancourt, Chartreux and the district of Paris.
By October, sufficient replenishment of the crews and aircraft had been carried out in order to return to more full-fledged offensives. "Big Week" ("Big Week") took place in the attacks on Anklem, Marienburg and Gdynia (Poland), and the end of the week was the continuation on October 14 of the "private war" of the 8th AF vs Schweinfurt; with probably the most bloody and cruel air battle in history. Sixty Fortresses fell victim to antiaircraft guns and guns of the insanely brave Luftwaffe fighter pilots. A number of B-17s was so badly damaged that they had to be completely withdrawn from the combat composition.
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