A tantalizing concept that did not live up to initial expectations, the heavily armed bomber escort version of the Flying Fortress was tried in combat over Europe.
When early Army Air Forces notions of unescorted bomber formations proved unsustainable in the face of aggressive German fighter attacks, American responses centered on developing fighters with greater range to protect the bombers, and limited tests of converted bombers as gunships to be placed at strategic locations within a bomber formation.
Much as naval vessels serving as escorts contribute to an umbrella of antiaircraft coverage over a task force at sea, escorting gunship versions of the B-17 were seen as one answer to the scourge of German fighter attacks.
A B-17 bomber escort variant, the XB-40, showed initial promise. A similar project with a B-24D converted into the XB-41 escort never developed beyond stateside testing.[Read more…]