December 11, 2011

A Square Mile of B-52s

A guest article for Next Big Future by Joseph Friedlander

When history, tech and industrial capacity studies collide, you get an awesome venue for geeky statistical comparisions.

I was just comparing the bomber forces of the USA during World War II and the Cold War and trying to come up with a measure of just how big they were (dwarfing those of today) and I think I have come up with such a measure: A square mile of aircraft. (Or square kilometer). This is measured, for purposes of this article by the simple square of the wingspan times the length, and taking that square as 'Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area' for purposes of measurement of a hypothetical giant array ('All in One Ground Formation Area') of every model of that aircraft ever built (Of course in a real aircraft production history, particularly for the long construction runs, many early examples will be long gone by the time the last one rolls off the line, so this is a strictly theoretical measure)
Field of B52






All data is from Wikipedia.

WORLD WAR II - USA Heavy Bomber Force

B-17

Number Produced 12,731
B-17G
Length 74 ft 4 in (22.66 m)
Wingspan 103 ft 9 in (31.62 m)
Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area 716.5092 square meters
All in One Ground Formation Area 9.121878 square kilometers
9.121878 (square kilometers) = 3.52197679 square miles
9 square kilometers or 3.5 square miles of B-17s.
B17 production in WW2

B-24

Consolidated B-24 Liberator-- Most-produced heavy bomber; most-produced multi-engine aircraft.
Number Produced 18,482
Length 67 ft 8 in (20.6 m)
Wingspan 110 ft 0 in (33.5 m)
Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area 690.1 square meters
All in One Ground Formation Area
12.7544282 (square kilometers) = 4.92451226 square miles
12 square kilometers or 5 square miles of B-24s!

B-29

Number Produced 3,970
Length 99 ft 0 in (30.18 m)
Wingspan 141 ft 3 in (43.06 m)
Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area square meters 5159216.676
All in One Ground Formation Area square kilometers 5.159216
5.159216 (square kilometers) = 1.99198443 square miles
5 square kilometers or 2 square miles of B-29s.

Cold War Era Jet Bombers

Boeing_B-47_Stratojet

Number Produced 2,032
Length 107 ft 1 in (32.65 m)
Wingspan 116 ft 0 in (35.37 m)
Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area square meters 1154.8305
All in One Ground Formation Area square kilometers 2346615.576
2.346615576 (square kilometers) = 0.906033339 square miles
2 square kilometers or ~1 square miles of B-47s.

B-52 Stratofortress

Number Produced 744
Length 159 ft 4 in (48.5 m)
Wingspan 185 ft 0 in (56.4 m)
Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area square meters 2735.4
All in One Ground Formation Area square kilometers 2035137.6
2.0351376 (square kilometers) = 0.78577102 square miles
2 square kilometers or about .8 square mile of B-52s.


737 vs 747 for Comparison

Boeing 737

Number Produced 6,919 as of September 2011
737-200
Length 100 ft 2 in (30.53 m)
Wingspan 93 ft (28.35 m)
Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area square meters 865.5255
All in One Ground Formation Area square kilometers 5988570.9345
5.9885709345 (square kilometers) = 2.31220016 square miles
6 square kilometers or 2 square miles of 737s!

Boeing 747

Number Produced 1,418 as of September 2010
747-300b Length 231 ft 10 in (70.6 m)
Wingspan 195 ft 8 in (59.6 m)

Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area square meters 4207.76
All in One Ground Formation Area square kilometers 5966603.68
5.96660368 (square kilometers) = 2.30371856 square miles
6 square kilometers or 2 square miles of 747s!

So to recap---

WW2 three major bombers

12 square kilometers or 5 square miles of B-24s
9 square kilometers or 3.5 square miles of B-17s
5 square kilometers or 2 square miles of B-29s



Modern transports
6 square kilometers or 2 square miles of 737s
6 square kilometers or 2 square miles of 747s

Mid Cold War major bombers
2 square kilometers or 1 square miles of B-47s
2 square kilometers or .8 of "A Square Mile of B-52s"

You can try it on your own for any aircraft you care to name-- post results in the comments.

Wikipedia has a list of the most produced aircraft

As an end note, consider that the lifting capacity of cargo or throw-weight (say around 90 kilotons for the 30000 B-17s and B-24s, and around 20 kilotons for the 4000 B-29s, vs around 15-20 kilotons for the B-52s and 10 kilotons for the B-47s, vs. about 140 kilotons for the 747s and 60 kilotons for the 737s) is individually much more for the modern aircraft--they are far more servicable and with faster turnaround time and they are more massive close up--but nothing beats those massive World War II numbers...)


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