The Boeing B-47 Stratojet (Boeing company designation Model 450) is a retired American long-range, six-engined, turbojet-powered strategic bomber designed to fly at high subsonic speed and at high altitude to avoid enemy interceptor aircraft. The primary mission of the B-47 was as a nuclear bomber capable of striking targets within the Soviet Union.
Development of the B-47 can be traced back to a requirement expressed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in 1943 for a reconnaissance bomber that harnessed newly developed jet propulsion. Another key innovation adopted during the development process was the swept wing, drawing upon captured German research. With its engines carried in nacelles underneath the wing, the B-47 represented a major innovation in post-World War II combat jet design, and contributed to the development of modern jet airliners. Suitably impressed, in April 1946, the USAAF ordered two prototypes, designated “XB-47”; on 17 December 1947, the first prototype performed its maiden flight.
The XB-47, which looked nothing like contemporary bombers, was described by Boyne as a “sleek, beautiful outcome that was highly advanced”. The 35-degree swept wings were shoulder-mounted, the inboard turbojet engines mounted in twin pods, at about a third of the span, and the outboard engines singly near the wing tip. This arrangement reduced the bending moment at the wing roots, saving structural weight. The engines’ mass acted as counter-flutter weights.
The wing airfoil was identified by Boeing as the BAC 145, also known as the NACA 64A(.225)12 mod airfoil. Wing flexibility was a concern, flexing as much as 17.5 ft (5.3 m) at the tip; major effort was expended to ensure that flight control could be maintained as the wing moved up and down; these worries proved to be mostly unfounded. Its maximum speed was limited to 425 kn (787 km/h) IAS to avoid control reversal, where aileron deflections would cause the wings to twist and produce a roll in the opposite direction to that desired by the pilot. The wings were fitted with a set of Fowler flaps that extended well behind the wing to enhance lift at slow speeds.
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n XB-47 was flown in the 1951 Operation Greenhouse nuclear weapons test. This was followed by a B-47B being flown in the 1952 test, Operation Ivy and the 1954 test, Operation Castle. A B-47E was then flown in the 1956 test, Operation Redwing. “Reflex” missions proved the long-endurance (eighteen hours) and long range capability of the B-47 and aircrews. These were “simulated strike missions against the then Soviet enemy”
During 1951, the B-47 entered operational service with the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC), becoming a mainstay of its bomber strength by the late 1950s. Over 2,000 were manufactured to meet the Air Force's demands, driven by the tensions of the Cold War