TINKER HISTORY: Tinker’s tie to the “Superfortress”

In February 1946, Oklahoma City Air Depot employees began modifying B-29s for atomic testing near the Bikini Atoll, and the historic Enola Gay made its first visit to Tinker for an overhaul.  (Photo courtesy of the Tinker History Office)

In February 1946, Oklahoma City Air Depot employees began modifying B-29s for atomic testing near the Bikini Atoll, and the historic Enola Gay made its first visit to Tinker for an overhaul. (Photo courtesy of the Tinker History Office)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

The Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” was a four-engine, heavy bomber produced for the Army Air Corps during World War II. The B-29 continued the “fortress” moniker use for Boeing’s heavy bombers which first began with the B-17 “Flying Fortress.” The aircraft was used extensively in the Pacific theater due to its long range and heavy payloads.

According to official Tinker history documents and photographs, the Oklahoma City Air Depot had a major and noteworthy association with the Superfortress through the installation of long-range fuel tanks as the U.S. began “island hopping” to take strategic islands and establish airfields closer and closer to the Japanese Empire. Eventually, B-29s routinely hit mainland Japan using conventional and incendiary munitions.

Tinker also modified B-29s to allow the aircraft to deliver nuclear bombs to the Japanese homeland. “Enola Gay,” the aircraft which dropped the code named “Little Boy” nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, was one of the aircraft modified here. 

During the post-war years B-29s continued serving as Strategic Air Command’s primary nuclear weapon carrier. They were also modified here to become KB-29M aerial refueling tankers using the hose and drogue refueling system in 1948, and then with the installation of what became the standard “Air Force” refueling system using a flying boom, the KB-29P, was developed in 1950.

B-29s also saw extensive combat action during the Korean War as conventional bombers and as strategic high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft designated RB-29s. The final operational use of the Superfortress came in the role of weather reconnaissance as WB-29s. The last WB-29 was retired from service in 1960.

The Enola Gay is preserved at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.Tinker also has a B-29 on display at the Maj. Charles B. Hall Memorial Air Park in honor of the work done here.

Currently, there are only two flyable B-29s in existence: Fifi and Doc.

 Manufacturer: Boeing
Aircraft type: B-29
Nickname: Superfortress
Crew: 11
Power plant: Four Wright  R 3350 radial engines
In-service dates: 1943-1960
Number produced: 3,970
Tinker connection: Fuel tank installation, refueling and reconnaissance modifications