A brief history of Boeing's B-47 Stratojet

By Willie Bodenstein

The B-47 was designed to fly at high subsonic speed and at high altitude to avoid enemy interceptor aircraft and entered service with the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) in 1951. Its primary mission was as a nuclear bomber capable of striking the Soviet Union. It never saw combat as a bomber, but was a mainstay of SAC's bomber strength during the late 1950s and early 1960s and remained in use as a bomber until 1965.

It was also adapted to a number of other missions, including photographic reconnaissance, electronic intelligence and weather reconnaissance, remaining in service as a reconnaissance aircraft until 1969 and as a testbed until 1977.

The B-47 was so fast that in the early days, the aircraft set records with ease. The aircraft handled well in flight, with a fighter-like light touch to the controls. The large bubble canopy for the pilot and co-pilot enhanced the fighter-like feel of the aircraft with improved vision, but the design would also cause variations in internal temperatures for the three-man crew.

The final recorded flight of a B-47 was on 17 June 1986, when a B-47E was restored to flight-worthy condition for a one-time ferry flight. This aircraft was flown from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, to Castle Air Force Base, California, for static display at the Castle Air Museum, where it presently resides.

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