The Boeing B-54A was the planned production version of the YB-50C and the final development of the B-29 Superfortress. It was powered by improved R-4360 Variable Discharge Turbine (VDT) radial engines. Wing span was increased by approximately 20 feet, necessitating additional outrigger landing gear in the outer engine nacelles. The larger wing imposed heavier loads on the fuselage, which was lengthened by over 10 ft to provide the requisite structural strength and accommodate a larger bomb load. The B-54A carried a pair of large 1,500 gal. fuel tanks under the outboard wing in order to meet the 9,300 mi. range requirement.
The RB-54A, a photo reconnaissance variant of the design, was also planned; a photo of the mock-up for this aircraft can be seen on the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s flickr stream, along with a photo of the B-54A mock-up dating from February 1, 1949 and not featured above. The bomber was equipped with the K-1 radar bombing system, which necessitated significant redesign of the fuselage. Lack of funding in the 1949 FY budget, along with General Curtiss LeMay’s preference for additional B-36s and B-47s, ultimately led to the type’s cancellation on April 18, 1949. Construction of the prototype B-54A was started but never completed.
The photos and drawings in the gallery above are reproduced from a report on the Boeing B-54A mockup inspection, which was held in Seattle on November 22-24, 1948. In the document, the B-54A mock-up was described as a modernized version of the YB-50C airplane mock-up which was inspected by Air Force personnel on February 24-26, 1948, revised to incorporate the type H-1 armament system, 120 volt d.c. electrical system and various changes decided upon during specification coordination conferences between Air Materiel Command and Boeing personnel. To view the images at higher resolution, please click through the image gallery above; this material provides ideal reference for the recent Anigrand kit or those wishing to modify a B-29/B-50 kit into a model of this forgotten Cold War bomber project.
All images from NARA Archives II, College Park, MD, RG 18
Document No. D-9466, “Results of B-54A Armament Mockup Inspection,” Boeing Aircraft Company, November 22-24, 1948, in the files of the National Archives II at College Park, MD, RG 18