Cool clips feature B-47 Stratojet bombers doing Immelmann Turns and Barrel Rolls

Cool clips feature B-47 Stratojet bombers doing Immelmann Turns and Barrel Rolls

By Dario Leone
Oct 31 2023
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The B-47 Stratojet

The B-47 Stratojet became an essential component of the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the 1950s and early 1960s, both as a nuclear bomber and a reconnaissance aircraft. Designed to meet a 1944 requirement, the first XB-47 prototype flew in December 1947, performing far beyond its competitors.

In May 1951 the B-47 began replacing the propeller-driven B-29s and B-50s in SAC’s medium bomber units. While it could carry about the same bomb tonnage as the aircraft it replaced, the B-47’s top speed was more than 200 mph faster. Since the B-47 did not have the range of SAC’s heavy bombers (the B-36 and later the B-52), Stratojet units regularly deployed to forward air bases around the world on temporary duty.

The RB-47

In addition to its role as a nuclear strike bomber, the Stratojet’s speed and payload made it a useful strategic reconnaissance aircraft in the form of the RB-47.

According to the National Museum of the US Air Force, between 1947 and 1957, Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed built over 2,000 Stratojets. At its peak use in 1958, the USAF operated 28 B-47 bomb wings and four RB-47 reconnaissance wings, totaling 1,357 B-47s and 175 RB-47s.

A milestone in aviation history

The Boeing B-47 Stratojet represented a milestone in aviation history and a revolution in aircraft design. In fact it incorporated many advanced features for the time, including swept wings, jet engines in underwing pods, fuselage mounted main landing gear and automated systems that reduced the standard crew size to three.

The two, cool videos in this post clearly show why B-47 crews loved this aircraft’s maneuverability and sweet handling for good reason.’

B-47 Stratojet bombers doing Immelmann Turns and Barrel Rolls

In 1954 the US Air Force (USAF) conducted a series of maneuver tests that showcased the B-47’s outstanding agility. These tests were specifically designed to explore the B-47s ability to “toss bomb.” The aircraft would approach the target low and at high speed, pull up sharply, open bomb bay doors, use momentum to literally fling the bomb towards the target and then execute the rest of a half loop Immelmann turn so that they were flying back in the opposite direction at the top of the loop.

This maneuver allowed the bomber to drop nuclear and high explosive weapons at low altitudes without danger of blast damage or flying directly over heavily defended targets. Seeing the big, sleek B-47 execute this maneuver (and barrel rolls too!) is truly memorable.

Cameras located all over the aircraft give unique views during the test flights.

Lockheed LM-100J Super Hercules doing a loop

However, this is not the first time that we saw such a large aircraft performing aerobatic maneuvers: on Jul. 17, 2018 at Farnborough Airshow Test pilot Wayne Roberts, flying the Lockheed LM-100J Super Hercules, showed the aircraft amazing flying qualities (the aircraft in fact also did a loop!). CLICK HERE to watch the video!


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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