The photos in the gallery above depict the Boeing/Pratt & Whitney XB-44 Superfortress, a B-29A-5-BN (s/n 42-93845) upgraded with Pratt & Whitney R-4360-33 Wasp Major radial engines of 3,000 hp each. These replaced the Wright R-3350 production engines rated at 2,200 hp each. The XB-44 program was initiated in mid-1943, when Pratt & Whitney proposed the engine upgrade to the USAAF; the contract was signed in July 1944. The company completely redesigned the four engine nacelles, adding a large air scoop underneath each cowling. Pratt & Whitney removed the majority of the bomber’s defensive equipment, as the type was intended strictly as an engine testbed; only a pair of machine guns in the rear fuselage remained. The XB-44 first flew in May 1945 and was demonstrated to be 50-60 mph faster than the B-29. The USAAF initially intended to produce the aircraft as the B-29D, but later changed the designation to B-50 to reflect the extensive airframe changes required and to improve the bomber’s chances of surviving the appropriations process—which it obviously did.
The photos above were found in USAAF files in the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. A stamp on the back of each indicates that they were taken by Pratt & Whitney; unfortunately, no captions or dates were included. According to Craig McBurney of Connecticut Corsair, the photos were taken at Pratt & Whitney’s airport in East Hartford, Connecticut. It is likely that these photos record the type’s first flight/early flights in 1945. If any readers have further information on these photos, feel free to comment below or contact the editor.
All images from NARA Archives II, College Park, MD, RG 341