Heavy and long-range bombers of the allies - exact losses

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BIGpanzer
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Post by BIGpanzer » 19 Feb 2006 09:24

Thanks for the info, Michael!

Michael wrote:
There was also a passenger/cargo version called the C-87 (RY-1 in Navy service). According to William Green, 276 of these were built.

According to my sources: C-87 was the transport modification of B-24D (280 copies), C-87A - transport modification with 10 sleeping accomodations (6 copies), AT-22 - "flying class" (5 C-87 were converted, later reequipped as TB-24), RY-1 - C-87A analogue for the navy (3 copies), RY-2 - C-87 analogue for the navy (5 copies), Liberator C.Mk.VII - C-87 analogue for RAF (24 copies).
Among 18482 B-24s of all types and modifications 17104 were built as serial heavy bombers. Were used by US, Australia (12 B-24D, 275 B-24J, 2 C-87), UK, USSR (1 B-24D, 25 B-24J - all repaired by Soviet workshops, in service since April 1945, never used in combat)

Michael wrote:
Although the B-17s (and B-24s) did face night fighters from time to time, it wasn't an everyday event.

Yes, this is truth as B-17s were used in Europe during the day time mainly. Usual fighters Bf109s and FW190s were also a big problem for US bombers, especially when they flew without escort during air raids. Nevertheless, as B-17s had strong defense armament (11-13x12.7mm MGs on B-17G) bomber gunners also knocked down/damaged many German fighters. But I don't have an exact data as it is very hard to distinguish German fighters, damaged by B-17s fire from damaged by US escort fighters fire, also official USAF combat reports about German fighter losses were very overevaluated often.
For example, B-17s gunners reported about 288(!) knocked down German fighters after the raid to Schweinfurt, Frankfurt and Regensburg 17.07.1943, but German sources mention only several fighters were knocked down. During that raid 60 B-17s from 376 were lost.
Only in 1945 the losses of B-17s decreased significantly as German fighters had not enough fuel for operations - during the raid 22.02.1945 only 1 bomber was knocked down by fighters and 4 - by AA fire from 1411 B-17s, participated in the raid. During the last raid against Berlin (18.03.1945) with 1327 heavy bombers, only 8 were knocked down by 50 Me-262s, 16 more were knocked down by AA fire, 16 were damaged and landed on Soviet territory. On another hand, 05.04.1945 only 5 Me-262 could knock down 2 B-17s (+1 escort fighter P-51), 5 B-24s and heavily damaged another 2 B-17s. Bomber gunners could knocked down one Me-262 which was extremelly hard using 12.7mm MG turrets.

Michael wrote:
The B-17s usually flew at altitudes around 20,000 feet or more, which is actually relatively high for WW II bombing.

Yes, this is also true, of course. Maximal altitude for B-17 was near 11-11.5 km. But when I wrote that high losses of B-17s were also the result of relatively low combat altitude I meant the air raids of 1943 when B-17 operated at medium altitudes quite often and were vulnerable for the strong AA fire.
Average B-17 made ~21 combat flight until it was knocked down in 1943.

Michael wrote:
The "Box" formation was carefully worked out to maximise coverage of every quarter by the planes' MGs.

Yes, "box" close formation of heavy bombers was quite good for defense against attacking German fighters and for square bombing of industrial centres. But close formation led also to high losses from heavy AA guns, fired fragmentation shells with delayed explosion, also upper bombers quite often damaged lower bombers by their own dropped bombs. Individual planes could not engage in evasive maneuvers.

Michael wrote:
The B-17s, like all bombers, were vulnerable to fighters. You'll notice that the heaviest losses were when escorting fighters were not present. The key to success for the bombers was to provide escorts.

Yes, exactly. The most heavy losses of B-17s (as the losses of all other types of bombers I guess) happened when there was no fighter support or it was insufficient. Nevertheless, AA fire caused many losses also.

Michael wrote:
This may be misleading. The actual record for total missions by a single B-17 was quite a bit over 25, though I don't have the precise number at hand. But many B-17s lasted more than 25 missions.

JonS wrote:
Memphis Belle was the first B-17 to reach 25 missions (and was promptly shipped back to the US), but I too am confident that there were many others that subsequently reached and surpassed that total. Especially from late-44 onwards.

Probably, yes. As I've already metioned today the average B-17 made 21-23 combat flights even in 1943, when German AA defense was very strong.
As for "Memphis Belle" B-17F no. 41-24485 (324th bomber squadron, 91st BG) - that was the first B-17, completed 25 missions (till 17.05.1943). That bomber was returned back to USA for US War Bonds advertising flights, later it was used at McDill Field (Florida) as training plane, In August 1945 Reconstruction Finance Corporation wanted to scrap the bomber, but fortunately one man recognised famous "Memphis Belle". Bomber was saved, preserved several years in Memphis (Tennessee), but was damaged by weather conditions and hoodlums. Since 1987 as completely restored airplane preserved under protective dome.
http://www.acepilots.com/planes/b17f_memphis.jpg

Michael wrote:
You need to check that again. I think the B-17 had more or less disappeared from the PTO by early 1943 to be replaced by the B-24, whose longer range made it better adapted to the Pacific.


B-17 was the main US heavy bomber in Pacific in 1941-1942 (Hawaii, Philippines - 1941, Java, Coral Sea, Midway - 1942, based in India since 02.1942), used also in 1943 until were replaced by B-24 (mainly in summer 1943). B-24s had better range, more bomb capacity and higher speed at medium altitude, whereas more high-level altitude B-17s were optimal for European theatre.

Michael wrote:
But not very much. The RAF didn't like them for bombing and I think quickly relegated them to exclusively flying airdrops to resistance groups. I'm not aware of them operating them in Africa at all, although they might have.


Yes, but the first combat case of B-17 was the British air raid against Wilhelmshaven in June 1941. RAF used B-17s in small groups during the bombing raids over Hamburg, Emden, Duesseldorf, Oslo, Brest. Since October 1941 British B-17s were used only by Coastal Command as recon/patrol/anti-submarine planes in Europe. But they were used till May 1942 in Africa (air raids against Tobruk, Benghazi in Libya).

Info about lost British B-17s:
16/08/41 Brest AN523
08/09/41 Oslo AN533 AN525
24/05/44 Bomber Support SR384
21/06/44 Bomber Support SR382 SR381
25/08/44 Bomber Support HB763
12/09/44 Bomber Support HB702
06/11/44 Bomber Support HB788
15/11/44 Bomber Support HB787
16/01/45 Bomber Support KJ103
08/02/45 Bomber Support HB796
24/02/45 Bomber Support HB805
07/03/45 Bomber Support KJ106
14/03/45 Bomber Support HB802
15/03/45 Bomber Support HB803
20/03/45 Bomber Support KB785
21/03/45 Bomber Support KJ112
03/04/45 Bomber Support HB815


JonS wrote:
Michael, 100 Group also used them for EW, but all told I think there was only a squadron or two of B-17s in RAF service.


90 squadron used 20 B-17 since May 1941, 100 Group (214 squadron) used 85 B-17G (Fortress III for Radio Counter Measures).
Airfields:
Watton (Suffolk): 90 Squadron 3 May 1941 - 15 May 1941
West Raynham (Norfolk): 90 Squadron 15 May 1941 - 30 August 1941
Polebrook (Northamptonshire):90 Squadron 30 August 1941 - 10 February 1942
Sculthorpe (Norfolk): 214 Squadron 16 January 1944 - 16 May 1944
Oulton (Norfolk): 214 Squadron 16 May 1944 - 27 July 1945


Regards, BP
Last edited by BIGpanzer on 19 Feb 2006 18:12, edited 5 times in total.

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Post by BIGpanzer » 19 Feb 2006 14:13

Some photos of B-17s - the main US bomber in Europe since 1944:
1. http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/research ... 7f-23a.jpg (bombing from the high altitude)
2. http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/research ... 17f-34.jpg (over Bonn, 94th bomb group, 331st bomb squadron)
3. http://www.wwiivets.com/Curriculum%20Im ... II_jpg.jpg (B-17 over Germany, 1943)

4. http://www.wwiivets.com/Curriculum%20Im ... _A_tif.jpg (B-17 heavily damaged over Cologne, two crew members were killed, but bomber could returned back!)
5. http://www.wwiivets.com/Curriculum%20Im ... 20(England)%20Damaged%20on%20Bombing%20%20Missi__A_tif.jpg (damaged B-17 from 493rd bombing group)
6. http://www.daveswarbirds.com/b-17/photo ... rn-in2.gif (The B-17 "All American" from 414th Squadron, 97 BG, its tail section almost severed by a collision with an enemy fighter, flew 90 minutes back to its home base, landed safely and broke in two after landing).
7. http://www.daveswarbirds.com/b-17/photo ... dehole.jpg (that B-17 took a fuselage direct Flak hit)
8. http://www.daveswarbirds.com/b-17/photos/nose/nose7.gif (B-17 "Lil Satan" from 379 BG, hitted by 88mm shell on June 25, 1944 and returned back to England)

9. http://www.daveswarbirds.com/b-17/photo ... mbhole.gif (B-17 damaged by "friendly" 500 lb bomb, 18.07.1944. Navigator was killed)

I found also a mention that once Germans tried dropping bombs from a captured B-17 onto a B-17 formation attacking the Rhineland 8O

The following serial modifications were produced:
YB-17 - experimental series with engines Wright R-1820-39 Cyclone (850 hp) - 13 copies
B-17B - modification of Y1B-1A, new front and lower parts of fuselage as well as new rudder and fuel system - 39 copies
B-17C - high-altitude modification of B-17B, engines Wright R-1820-65 (1200 hp), better aerodynamics, 7x12.7mm MGs - 38 copies
B-17D - modification of B-17C with self-sealing tanks, better armament (coaxial MGs in turrets) and armor - 42 copies
B-17E - modification of B-17D, improved construction, new tail section, additional MGs - 512 copies
B-17F - improved B-17E, engines Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone, additional tanks, better armament, strengthened frame - 2300 + 605 + 500 copies
X/YB-40 - escort plane with 30 MGs, improved armor. Conversion of B-17F - 21 copies
BQ-7 - unmanned radio-controlled flying bomb, conversion of B-17E & F - 25 copies
Fortress MkI - B-17C for RAF - 20 copies
Fortress MkII - B-17F for RAF - 19 copies
Fortress MkIIA - B-17E for RAF - 45 copies
B-17G - improved B-17F, engines Wright R-1820-97, additional front turret, new tail turret (last series) - 4035 + 2250 + 2395 copies
Fortress MkIII - B-17G for RAF - 85 copies
B-17H - rescue plane, equipped with radar and rescue boat. Conversion of B-17G - 50 copies + 17 PB-1G
F-9, 9A/C, FB-17, RB-17G - long-range recon planes with cameras in radio cabin and bomb bay. Conversion of B-17F&G - 73 copies.
PB-1W - anti-submarine/patrol plane with radar APS-20. Comversion of B-17G - 31 copies.
Also CB-17G & YC-108 (conversions into VIP-transport planes), VB-17G (conversions into HQ transport planes), XC-108 (passenger planes), TB-17G (conversions into training planes)

The photo of USA heavy bomber Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (in production December 1936 - July 1945, 12731 copies)
is from http://www.world-war-2-planes.com/images/b-17-fl_nb.jpg

Image
Last edited by BIGpanzer on 19 Feb 2006 20:59, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Jon G. » 19 Feb 2006 14:21

Michael Emrys wrote:I wonder if Jon's numbers on the B-24 production might have included the PB4-Y. Jon?

Michael


My numbers were lifted from Bill Gunston's book on WW2 bombers. Granted, not the pinnacle of accuracy. Gunston writes that the 19,203 (to be exact) figure includes all types, including several types of target tugs, transports, trainers, photo recce and also C-109 fuel tankers. It's not clear whether the PB4-Y is part of the figures. An additional 1,800 B-24 equivalents were delivered as spares.

I went to look up B-17 and B-24 figures for the 15th Air Force, which operated out of Italy.

When it was formed November 1st 1943, 15th AF had six bombardment groups on strength, organized in the 5th Bomb Wing.

2 B Grp B-17s
97 B Grp B-17s
99 B Grp B-17s
301 B Grp B-17s
98 B Grp B-24s
376 B Grp B-24s

The strength of the 15th AF was increased almost immediately - the 449th, 450th, 451st, 454th, 455th and 456th Bombardment Groups (Heavy) all joined the 15th AF in late 1943/early 1944. All six new groups had 62 B-24Hs each.

A quick hand-count of B-17s and B-24s as of May 12th 1944 gives 303 USAAF B-17s and 899 USAAF B-24s, concentrated at Bari and Foggia. Additionally, the RAF operated 10 Liberators, but no Fortresses, from the same bases.

By August 1944 (when Italy had very much been relegated as a secondary theater of war), the 15th Air Force stood at full strength with 21 heavy bombardment groups: six with B-17s and 15 with B-24s.

If we put together 15th and 8th AF heavy bombardment groups, we arrive at a total of 28 groups of B-17s and 33 groups with B-24s by August 1944.

All 15th AF figures from Brookes: Air War over Italy 1943-1945.

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Post by Jon G. » 19 Feb 2006 14:43

Michael Emrys wrote:...The B-17s came into the ETO in 1942 and were there in significant numbers after the middle of 1943. The B-24 numbers—and consequently sorties flown—ramped up later and more slowly. This means that the 17s faced the cream of the Luftwaffe and before they had escorts over any but extreme western Germany. By the time the 24s were on the scene in comparable numbers, the Luftwaffe was already suffering and the bombers had a better chance of being escorted to their targets...


The grueling Tidal Wave raid on Ploesti, August 1 1943, was done by B-24s. 37.6% of 178 B-24s sent off from Benghazi did not return. See Dragos' excellent post:

viewtopic.php?p=638619

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Post by JonS » 19 Feb 2006 21:03

BP,
your analysis and timelines seem somewhat at odds with these two articles:
http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/airchroni ... murray.htm
http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airc ... rabb2.html
in particular the Murray one.

Also, you seem unreasonably fixated on 'firsts' and other ephemera. A single RAF sqn that flew B-17s for 3 months in mid 1941, including a 'raid' consisting of three B-17s sent to Wilhelmshaven, might be interesting from a 'gee whiz' perspective, but it's hardly trend-influencing stuff.

Regards
JonS

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Post by BIGpanzer » 19 Feb 2006 21:41

Hi, JonS!
This is not my own analysis, but the analysis of different authors of my sources (well-known and basic, so timeline is absolutely correct) :) Me seems they are at least 90-95% correct. I will read your links also, thank you very much. If you would like to discuss details - you are welcome!

About the "firsts".......This seems really strange for me as I just mentioned use of B-17s by RAF (as small part of combat history of B-17). If you read my post carefully you can calculate that RAF lost only 19 B-17 during the whole WWII as only two squadrons used them (but I found the info about the tactical numbers of all lost British B-17s as well as the names of British airfields, where they based. And I found and posted this for everybody's knowledge and pleasure here, by the way :wink: )
Yes, I completely agree that RAF used a very-very few amount of B-17 compared to USAAF, so what? I couldn't mention this??!! For example, raid of three B-17 over Wilhelmshaven was the first combat flight of B-17s in history, all books about WWII aviation tell about this. :| If I write about the losses of B-17 and analyze their damages only based on their use in British service, this will seem really strange :D But where do you see such info in my posts? I wrote large page about US B-17 losses (and have a huge amount of material which I still would like to post here despite your strange letter :P and absence of my free time) and wrote just two sentences about their use by RAF as all my sources did!

It will be better if you find for our thread interesting info, for example how much B-17 were lost per tonne of dropped bombs (some forum members are interested in such data here, me too) or how much B-17s were lost per each USAAF squadron.........

Regards, BP

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Post by BIGpanzer » 19 Feb 2006 22:28

I've just read the JonS' link - Attrition and the Luftwaffe by Dr. Murray. Quite interesting but very short article, and I really couldn't see info which is opposite to the info from my sources. I didn't post general analysis of the losses of B-17 and especially of German fighters, but wrote shortly about some famous raids and losses during them. I just want to collect some combined info about loss statistics of B-17 with the help of friends here. None of those raids was mentioned in the Murray's article as it represents short resume about German fighters losses and strength of 8th AF.
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Post by Jon G. » 20 Feb 2006 14:20

BIGpanzer wrote:Some photos of B-17s - the main US bomber in Europe since 1944...


Thank you for the photo links BP. I've zapped your double posts as you requested. From a nitpicky perspective, the B-17 wasn't really the main US bomber in the ETO by late summer 1944. The B-24 gets that title with 54% of US heavy bombardment groups (33 out of 61) equipped with the B-24 by August '44.

As I understand it the RAF was supplied with its initial batch of early mark B-17 Fortresses free of charge - what Boeing wanted in return was combat evaluations. It was British experience that lead to the introduction of the dorsal ball MG turret, for example. Presumably problems with freezing gun controls and faulty Norden bomb sights were also fixed.

As an interesting aside it was decided that initial conversions to B-29 Superfortresses in the ETO would be done by the 15th AF in the Mediterranean. As we know no conversions were carried out prior to VE-Day, but the decision to convert 15th AF groups first perhaps demonstrates that Allied forces in the Mediterranean weren't always second in line when new equipment was issued.

The RAF's 205 Group in the Mediterranean, operating alongside 15th AF, had four bomber wings on strength from early 1944: 231, 236 and 330, which all flew Wellingtons, and the 240 which operated both Liberators and Halifaxes. In July the 205 was joined by the 2 SAAF, which operated Liberators. The Wellingtons were replaced with Liberators at a sedate pace - the last Wellington combat mission in the Mediterranean was carried out in March 1945.

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Post by Zygmunt » 20 Feb 2006 20:35

Jon G. wrote:As I understand it the RAF was supplied with its initial batch of early mark B-17 Fortresses free of charge - what Boeing wanted in return was combat evaluations. It was British experience that lead to the introduction of the dorsal ball MG turret, for example. Presumably problems with freezing gun controls and faulty Norden bomb sights were also fixed.
Were British B-17s supplied with Norden bomb sights?
I ask because I thought it was kept a US military secret - though I can't find information to prove or disprove that in the few books I have to hand.

Zygmunt

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Post by Jon G. » 20 Feb 2006 21:17

Zygmunt wrote:Were British B-17s supplied with Norden bomb sights?
I ask because I thought it was kept a US military secret - though I can't find information to prove or disprove that in the few books I have to hand.


Hi Zygmunt, I must repeat that Gunston is likely not the definite authority on the matter, but according to him:

'...In return for combat data 20 were supplied to the RAF, which used them on a few high-altitude daylight raids with 90 Sqn. of Bomber Command. It was found that the Norden sight tended to malfunction, the Browning guns to freeze at high altitude and German fighters to attack from astern in a defensive blind spot...'

I would think that most limitations on export of military technology to the UK had gone by mid-1941, and US airmen were following the RAF's bombing campaign with interest. Enough to justify Norden sights for the British IMO.

These Fortress I were B-17 C models, and Boeing apparently wasted no time in rectifying these shortcomings on the D model, which apart from more guns also had self-sealing tanks and better armour protection.

Considering that RAF bombers on occasion had problems hitting the right country in the early war, it's actually hard to see why they would be dissatisfied with the Norden bomb sight. Maybe there were politics and/or chauvinism behind the decision to reject the B-17 - the Halifax was just coming on-line at the time, and the Stirling was not yet a total disappointment.

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Post by JonS » 20 Feb 2006 22:04

Jon G. wrote:Considering that RAF bombers on occasion had problems hitting the right country in the early war, it's actually hard to see why they would be dissatisfied with the Norden bomb sight.

Heh. The USAAF had problems hitting the right country till very late in the war, so you snide remark tells us very little ;)

Furthermore, hitting the right country has nothing to do with the bomb sight, it's all to do with navigation. Once that problem is solved, the bomb sight should - in theory - allow you to hit the right building, or ship, or whatever. From that point of view it's easy to see how they may have had problems with the Norden, especially if it wasn't performing as advertised.

Regards
JonS
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Post by Zygmunt » 20 Feb 2006 23:28

Thank you Jon G and JonS.
I still don't have a source, but the passage I remember reading was along the lines of noting that the US kept its Norden sights under wraps and secret from everyone, but this was actually futile as the precise details of the sight had been passed to German Intelligence before the war by a sympathetic employee in the factory which manufactured them.

If/when I pin down where I read that I'll get back to this thread.

Zygmunt (who has a photographic memory, but just sometimes forgets to put film in it...)

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Post by Michael Emrys » 21 Feb 2006 05:04

Zygmunt wrote:I still don't have a source, but the passage I remember reading was along the lines of noting that the US kept its Norden sights under wraps and secret from everyone, but this was actually futile as the precise details of the sight had been passed to German Intelligence before the war by a sympathetic employee in the factory which manufactured them.


This precisely matches my own recollection of the matter, but like you, I cannot recall a source. That doesn't mean that JonG is incorrect in his assertions though. By the time of the B-17 deal, restrictions re the UK had probably been lifted.

Zygmunt (who has a photographic memory, but just sometimes forgets to put film in it...)


In my own case, much of the exposed and developed film has faded.

:(

Michael

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Post by Jon G. » 21 Feb 2006 05:04

For clarity's sake I have lifted some numbers from the excellent link that Hop gave on page 1 of this thread. There are really statistics for everything there, up to and including a breakdown of rounds of ammunition expended by year. Interesting to note that the USAAF spent far more rockets in the MTO than they did in the ETO, hmm...alas there is no breakdown of aircraft losses by model, only by type.

Anyway, I've concentrated only on number of effective combat sorties, tons of bombs dropped and losses of heavy bombers in the ETO and the MTO:

Mediterranean Theater of Operations
Year/ Eff. C. Sorties/ Losses/ Bombs dropped (tons)
1942/ 1,908*/ 17/ 3,251
1943/ 18,518/ 294/ 50,485
1944/ 90,383/ 1,974/ 237,440
1945/ 38,210/ 481/ 90,899

European Theater of Operations
Year/ Eff. C. Sorties/ Losses/ Bombs dropped (tons)
1942/ 754/ 42/ 1,713
1943/ 20,129/ 1,036/ 47,452
1944/ 170,117/ 3,497/ 446,165
1945/ 83,921/ 973/ 219,389

* Total sorties - no seperate figures given for effective/non-effective sorties.

Edited: numbers, grr

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Post by BIGpanzer » 07 Mar 2006 20:06

By the way, does anybody know about exact losses of Soviet heavy bomber TB-7 (Pe-8). It was Soviet analogue of Avro "Lancaster" and B-17, but TB-7 was produced only in 93 copies as it was very complicated and expensive in production by evacuated air plants, also Soviets needed in dive front-line bombers Pe-2 and battle planes Il-2 in large amounts, not in heavy long-range bombers as Soviet government decided.

Nevertheless, heavy long-ranged bombers TB-7 (Pe-8) participated in many operations, including bombing raids against Berlin and other German cities (Danzig, Koenigsberg); bombing raids against Koenigsberg, Helsinki, Mogilev, Orel with the most powerful Soviet 5-t bombs; diplomatic and special missions from USSR to USA and UK over Europe and Atlantic.

TB means "Tyazhely Bombardirovshchik" = heavy bomber, in February 1942 after the death of its designer V.M. Petlyakov in aerial collision the bomber was renamed as Pe-8.

Me seems that as TB-7 was produced only in 93 copies it is very easy to find exact amount of lost bombers, but unfortunately I don't find such info yet.

http://wmilitary.neurok.ru/wwii/pe8-f.gif (heavy bombers Pe-8 in flight, photo)
http://wmilitary.neurok.ru/wwii/pe8.gif (Pe-8, picture, side view)
http://audim.galactic.ru/Foto/RC/FAB-5000.JPG (super-heavy 5.4-t bomb FAB-5000 near Pe-8 bomber)

Best regards, BIGpanzer
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