Fortress versus Lightning: B-17 and F-35 compared



The Boeing B-17 and Lockheed Martin F-35 are two American bombers separated by around 70 years of history. They belong to the same weight class and bear interesting comparison.

First flight:

B-17 1935

X-35 2000 / F-35 2006

Time from requirement to service entry:

B-17 4 years (1934-1938)

F-35 23 years  (1992-2015 est. for B)


Maximum speed compared to average contemporary fighter:


287 mph/400 mph (71.75 %)


1200 mph/1450 mph (82.7 %)


B-17G:  1,738 nmi, 3219 km with 2700 kg (6,000 lb) bomb-load

F-35: 584 nm (1080 km) on internal fuel (combat radius)

Take-off speed:

B-17: 115 mph

F-35: 0 mph (B variant)

Maximum conceivable amount of enemy aircraft that can be destroyed by standard defensive weapons on one mission

F-35: 2

B-17G: 25+


Max loaded weight:

B-17G: 65K Ib

F-35: 70K Ib

Max internal bomb-load:

F-35: 4670 lbs

B-17: 8000 lbs…

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