Boeing's long-awaited dream machine became a commercial reality on Sunday, when the lightweight plastic-composites 787 Dreamliner was formally delivered to its first Japanese customer.
After years of delays, Sunday's delivery marked a triumph for the company, which had been bogged down by the plane for more than three years. While the plane is considered a major accomplishment in the aviation industry, it's not the first time Boeing has pushed the industry forward.
During World War I and World War II, Boeing was at the fore of manufacturing some of the most iconic military aircraft of the 20th century. Here, we take a look at those designs, what they meant for the industry at the time, and how they impacted plane designs to come. Here are Boeing's most famous military aircraft.
By Constance Parten
Posted 26 September 2011
Dreamliner: Inside the World's Most Anticipate Airplane
Defense forces worldwide fly two variants of the AH-64 multimission combat helicopters: the AH-64A Apache and the next-generation version, the AH-64D. Equipped with radar, the aircraft is known as the AH-64D Apache Longbow. Without radar, it is the AH-64D Apache. (In the U.K., where all next-generation Apaches will have radars, Apaches are in production by AugustaWestland. The British Army will field these aircraft under the designation AH-Mk1.)
The AH-64D Apache Longbow is the newest version of the combat-proven AH-64A Apache and fulfills attack helicopter and reconnaissance requirements of several armed forces worldwide. It can perform loops, left and right rolls and turns, split S and hammerhead maneuvers, and 360 degree turns, all while flying at full mission weight of approximately 16,000 pounds.
In 1969, McDonnell Douglas teamed up with British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce to develop an advanced-technology upgrade of the original Harrier “jump jet,” and the AV-8B was born. The aircraft’s first flight took place in St. Louis on Nov. 9, 1978. The U.S. Marine Corps, Britain’s Royal Air Force, and the navies of Spain and Italy fly the AV-8B.
Designed to provide fast and effective close air support to ground forces, the AV-8B can operate from field clearings, roads, bomb-damaged runways, and small ships. Variants include a two-seat trainer version, the TAV-8B, and a night attack version, with a forward-looking-infrared sensor mounted above its nose.
A total of 377 AV-8Bs were built in St. Louis and delivered between 1978 and 1995. The newest version of the Harrier is the AV-8B II Plus, which made its first flight on Sept. 22, 1992. Equipped with the same radar used on the F/A-18C Hornet, the Harrier II Plus can perform air-to-air, anti-ship, and close-air-support missions around the clock and in bad weather.
As the storm of World War II shook the world, Boeing-designed B-17 bombers darkened European skies, dropping more than 640,000 bombs on designated targets.
Described by General H. H. "Hap" Arnold, as the backbone of the worldwide aerial offensive, the B-17 Flying Fortress served in every World War II combat zone. Boeing, Douglas, and Lockheed Vega produced 12,731 B-17s at plants across the country, and the four-engine bombers became legendary for their ability to stay in the air after taking brutal poundings.
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the most technologically advanced airplane produced during World War II, first flew Sept. 21, 1942.
The B-29 had many new features, including guns that could be fired by remote control. The crew areas were pressurized and connected by a long tube over the bomb bays. The tail gunner had a separate pressurized area that could only be left during unpressurized flight.
At 105,000 pounds, the B-29 was also the heaviest production plane because of increases in range, bomb load and defensive requirements.
The B-29 used the high-speed Boeing 117 airfoil, and its larger Fowler flaps added to the wing area as they increased lift. Modifications led to the B-29D, upgraded to the B-50, and the RB-29 photo reconnaissance aircraft. The Soviet-built copy of the B-29 was called the Tupolev Tu-4. A total of 3,970 B-29s were built.
At the time of its first flight, Dec. 17, 1947, the B-47 Stratojet represented a radical departure from traditional design, and it set the design standards for all large jet aircraft until present day. The six-engine Boeing B-47 was America's first multi-engine, swept-wing jet bomber. Its thin 116-foot wing was extraordinarily flexible and swept back at a 35-degree angle.
Because early jet engines could not provide enough thrust for takeoff, the B-47 had 18 small rocket units in the fuselage for jet-assisted takeoff. Thrust reversers and anti-skid brakes had not yet been developed, so a ribbon-type drag parachute reduced the B-47 landing speed.
Later models were powered by 5,200-pound-thrust axial-flow jet engines, and top speeds were 600 mph. A total of 2,032 B-47s in all versions were built.
The Boeing B-52 was the country’s first long-range, swept-wing bomber. By the 21st century, it was in its fifth decade of operational service. Originally designed as an intercontinental high-altitude nuclear bomber, the B-52 was adapted to meet changing defense needs.
B-52s are capable of low-level flight, conventional bombing, extended-range flights, and missile launches hundreds of miles from targets. A total of 744 B-52s were built in all versions between 1952 and 1962.
The F/A-18 Hornet has flown the entire spectrum of tactical missions—in combat and in peacekeeping operations worldwide. The resilient aircraft was the first to have carbon fiber wings and the first tactical jet fighter to use digital fly-by-wire flight controls. Variants included a two-seater, an improved fighter, a reconnaissance aircraft, and a night-attack fighter.
The F/A-18 flew for the first time on Nov. 18, 1978, and entered operational service in 1983. The upgraded Night Strike F/A-18C/D, with its ability to deliver precision-guided weapons at night and in bad weather, was introduced in 1989.
At left, the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy's flight demonstration team, perform an air show at their home base, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The Blue Angels fly the Boeing-built F/A-18A/B Hornet.
The C-17 Globemaster III is a high-wing, four-engine, T-tailed aircraft with a rear loading ramp. With its 160,000-pound payload, the C-17 can take off from a 7,600-foot airfield, fly 2,400 nautical miles, and land on a small airfield in 3,000 feet or less.
On the ground, a fully loaded aircraft, using engine reversers, can back up a 2 percent slope. During normal testing, C-17s set 22 world records, including payload to altitude time-to-climb, and the short takeoff and landing mark, in which the C-17 took off in less than 1,400 feet, carried a payload of 44,000 pounds to altitude, and landed in less than 1,400 feet.
The C-17 was deployed in June 1993 and won the prestigious National Aeronautic Association's annual Collier Trophy in 1994 for "the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America."
Chinook helicopters were introduced in 1962 as the CH-47 Chinook, and models A, B and C were deployed in Vietnam. As the product of a modernization program, which included refurbishing existing CH-47s, the first CH-47Ds were delivered in 1982 and were produced until 1994.
To extend the service life of the CH-47 beyond 2030, Boeing developed the CH-47F in the mid-1990s and began production in 2003. A central element in the Gulf War, they continue to be the standard for the U.S. Army in the global campaign against terrorism. Since its introduction 1,179 Chinooks have been built."
U.S. Army Special Operations Forces also operate Special Operations Chinooks, designated as MH-47Ds and MH-47Es. The MH-47Es are among the most advanced rotorcraft in operation today. Special Operations Chinooks perform low-level, high-speed flights at night and in adverse weather.
The single-seat F-15A first flew on July 27, 1972, and entered service in 1974. The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models were followed by the two-seat, dual-role F-15E "Strike Eagle."
What distinguished the Eagle from other aircraft of the time was the power of its two engines; their thrust was greater than the weight of the fully loaded plane. The Eagle could stand on its tail and climb straight up, accelerating to supersonic speed as it went. It could reach 98,000 feet in less than three and one half minutes.
By 2002, the F-15 Eagle was the U.S. Air Force’s premier fighter, and more than 1,500 were in operational service. The F-15E Strike Eagle, first delivered in 1988, is among the world’s most technologically advanced tactical aircraft. The F-15E is able to fly higher than 50,000 feet at more than Mach 2.5.
The F-15 Eagle has a perfect combat record of 100 victories and zero defeats in air-to-air combat. In 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, F-15s accounted for 33 of the 35 enemy aircraft shot down during the conflict. More than 1,000 F-15 Eagles were delivered by McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis.
In 1996, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded Boeing a four-year contract for the concept demonstration phase of the Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF, program competition. The goal was to develop a low-cost, multi-role tactical aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, and the U.K.'s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
Boeing built two concept demonstration aircraft that validated the company's approach to commonality: low-speed handling qualities and carrier approach; short takeoff and vertical landing; and hover and transition between conventional and vertical flight.
Although not selected for full-scale development of the JSF, the program yielded many advances in stealth technology, and design and manufacturing methods. These achievements have been applied to other Boeing programs including the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, or UCAV.