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Convair B-36 Peacemaker

F

Fredrocker

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The genesis of the B-36 can be traced to early 1941, prior to the entry of the U.S. into World War II. At the time it appeared there was a very real chance that Britain might fall to the Nazi 'Blitz', making a strategic bombing effort by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) against Germany impossible with the aircraft of the time. The U.S. would need a new class of bomber that could reach Europe from bases in North America, necessitating a combat range of at least 5,700 miles (9,200 km), the length of a Gander, Newfoundland–Berlin round trip. The USAAC therefore sought a bomber of truly intercontinental range, similar to the Nazi RLM's own ultra-long-range Amerika Bomber program, which emerged during the spring of 1942.

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The USAAC opened up a design competition for the very long-range bomber on 11 April 1941, asking for a 450 mph (720 km/h) top speed, a 275 mph (443 km/h) cruising speed, a service ceiling of 45,000 ft (14,000 m), beyond the range of ground-based anti-aircraft fire, and a maximum range of 12,000 miles (19,000 km) at 25,000 ft (7,600 m). These proved too demanding—far exceeding the technology of the day—for any short-term design, so on 19 August 1941 they were reduced to a maximum range of 10,000 mi (16,000 km), an effective combat radius of 4,000 mi (6,400 km) with a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) bombload, a cruising speed between 240 and 300 mph (390 and 480 km/h), and a service ceiling of 40,000 ft (12,000 m), above the maximum effective altitude of all of Nazi Germany's anti-aircraft Flak guns, save for the rarely deployed 12.8 cm FlaK 40 heavy Flak cannon.

Early in the war, the military refused to supply materials, tradespeople, and engineers to the project, which slowed work. As the Pacific war progressed, the United States increasingly needed a bomber capable of reaching Japan from its bases in Hawaii, and the B-36 began its development in earnest again. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, in discussions with high ranking officers of the AAF, decided to waive normal Army procurement procedures, and on 23 July 1943 ordered 100 B-36s before the completion and testing of the two prototypes. The first delivery was due in August 1945, and the last in October 1946, but Consolidated (now renamed Convair) delayed delivery. The aircraft was unveiled on 20 August 1945, and flew for the first time on 8 August 1946.

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After the Cold War began in earnest with the 1948 Berlin Airlift and the 1949 atmospheric test of the first Soviet atomic bomb, American military planners sought bombers capable of delivering the very large and heavy first-generation atomic bombs. The B-36 was the only American aircraft with the range and payload to carry such bombs from airfields on American soil to targets in the USSR. (Storing nuclear weapons in foreign countries was, and remains, diplomatically sensitive and risky).

The B-36 was arguably obsolete from the outset, being piston-powered, particularly in a world of super-sonic jet interceptors, but its jet rival, the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, which did not become fully operational until 1953, lacked the range to attack the Soviet homeland from North America and could not carry the huge first-generation hydrogen bomb. Nor could the other American piston bombers of the day, the B-29 or B-50. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) did not become effective deterrents until the 1960s. Until the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress became operational in the late 1950s, the B-36, as the only truly intercontinental bomber, continued to be the primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle of the Strategic Air Command (SAC).

Convair touted the B-36 as the "aluminum overcast", a so-called "long rifle" giving SAC truly global reach. While General Curtis LeMay headed SAC (1949–57), he turned the B-36 arm, through intense training and development, into an effective nuclear delivery force, forming the heart of the Strategic Air Command. Its maximum payload was more than four times that of the B-29, even exceeding that of the B-52. The B-36 was slow and could not refuel in midair, but could fly missions to targets 3,400 mi (5,500 km) away and stay aloft as long as 40 hours. Moreover, the B-36 was believed to have "an ace up its sleeve": a phenomenal cruising altitude for a piston-driven aircraft, made possible by its huge wing area and six 28-cylinder engines, putting it out of range of all piston fighters, early jet interceptors, and ground batteries.

As a side note, my Dad was trained for a B-36 but ended up in a B-29 because of formentioned delays.
 
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2054172

Guest
Great info...good thing we did not have to have many of them.
 
Z

zaraza

Guest
B-36 was also used as nuclear propulsion testing platform (NB-36H). One of two ( i think two ) used for this was repearier B-36 wich was damaged in tornado in 1952 ( cockpit destroyed ). It was much easier and cheaper to install new protected cockpit into this one than use new aircraft for this.
Other versions include cargo&transport aircraft (XC-99) and even passenger double decker ( Convair model 37 ).
It was also used in parasite fighter program.
 

Louis

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B-36 Peacemaker assembly
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