USAAC SAR aircraft

Started by Garibaldi, August 06, 2012, 02:45:21 AM

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I just found out that during the development stages of the B-17 that a number of them were configured as SAR aircraft. Can you imagine if we had those things, at least one, assigned to CAP during WW2?
Still a major after all these years.
ES dude, leadership ossifer, publik affaires
Opinionated and wrong 99% of the time about all things


It wasn't during the "development" stage that the SB-17 came about.
There was a need for a long range SAR aircraft, B-17's were available in theatre and the local Depot Squadron made the mods.
Same way the float equipped C-47 came about. There was a need and they met that need with what was available.


B-29s were also used as SAR aircraft.

Also, the P-47 was used for SAR as well.

"The P-47 served with the Army Air Forces (United States Air Force after 1947) until 1949, and with the Air National Guard until 1953, receiving the designation F-47 in 1948. P-47s also served as spotters for rescue aircraft such as the OA-10 Catalina and Boeing B-17H."

That is according to Wikipedia, but I have also heard that elsewhere.
Lt. Col. Randy L. Mitchell
Historian, Group 1, IL-006


I have a cousin whose father was killed in the crash of a SAR SB-17 in Washington state during the Korean War. The flight was returning from a search for a military transport that crashed in the Pacific Ocean off British Columbia. The plane hit a ridge top in a blizzard, then skidded 2,000 down the far side of the ridge. 5 of the 8 crew survived.  A website devoted to the crash is here:

My cousin's family didn't find out until a few years ago that the crash site still existed. They took a pilgrimage to the site which they found very moving.

As for the development of the SB-17 and SB-29, this is from "The USAF - Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia," Office of Air Force History, 1980:
The B-17 provided one answer to the some of the Catalina's problems. [PBY-1 Catalina, the mainstay of maritime SAR in WWII] With twice the range of the Catalina and loaded with life rafts and other rescue equipment, modified B-17s accompanied bombers to the enemy coast, orbited and awaited the return of any damaged aircraft from the target area. Improving on the Luftwaffe practice of dropping inflatable dinghies to downed pilots, American engineers developed a twenty-seven foot mahogany-laminated, plywood boat to fit under the belly of the B-17. The boat was stocked with food, water, and clothing, and its two small air cooled engines provided an eight-knot cruising speed and a 500-mile range. Thus equipped, the rescue version of the Flying Fortress was redesignated the SB-17. The first operational drop was performed in April, 1945.

In the Pacific Theater "...the SB-17s had neither the range nor the speed to keep pace with B-29s. A rescue version of the Superfortress, the SB-29, met these requirements, but the war ended before its full potential as a rescue aircraft was realized. Both the SB-17 and SB-29 remained in the rescue inventory into the next decade.

In 1953 the Air Rescue Service replaced its SB-17s and SB-29s with a version of the C-54 modified to increase its range, cargo capacity, and with an external configuration making it more suitable for the rescue mission. The redesignated SC-54 carried four MA-1 rescue kits, each kit containing a forty person inflatable life raft...Thus, each SC-54 was theoretically capable of saving 160 lives compared to 14 for the older converted bombers.