Nevertheless, four companies responded to the Air Corps brief – although it was Boeing that was ultimately given the go-ahead to produce three prototype aircraft. This process seems to have gone well, too, as in May 1941 the Air Corps ordered 14 test planes and 250 standard production models – with the latter figure increased to 500 in January 1942.
The Superfortress was, it’s worth remembering, a notably advanced aircraft for its day. Among its innovative features were a pressurized cabin, machine gun turrets controlled remotely by rudimentary computers and unorthodox double-wheeled tricycle landing gear. But, naturally, producing the bomber didn’t come cheap.
Indeed, over the course of WWII, some $3 billion was sunk into the design and production of the B-29 – making it the costliest piece of weaponry constructed during the conflict. By contrast, the Manhattan Project – which involved the design and building of the world’s first nuclear bomb – cost a mere $1.9 billion. And to put that sum into further perspective, $3 billion in 1945 was equivalent to nearly $42 billion today.