The B-36 Peacemaker By ConvairThe very first intercontinental strategic bomber operated by the United States Air Force was the B-36 Peacemaker. The plane holds the title of being the largest mass produced aircraft with the old piston engines ever built. It was also the first bomber that was able to deliver any of the U.S. nuclear bombs carried inside its bomb bays and no modifications were required.
The B-36 was in service by the U.S. between 1949 and 1959 with a service range of 6,000 miles and capable of carrying a payload of 73,000 lbs. It could deliver both the U.S. fission and fusion bombs un-refueled anywhere in the world.
The B-29 was a Superbomber but the B-36 was a full 2/3s longer and at the time it had a longer wingspan and tail height than the Russian An-22. No other aircraft were built to carry its payload for 20 years or heavier, until the introduction of the Boeing 747 and the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy.
B-36 Peacemaker Huge Wings
There is no comparison to the wings of the B-36 to any other aircraft made today. The widest point up close to fuselage was 7 and ½ feet with so much space. The wings included crawl-space room for the crew to have access to the six 28 cylinder R-4360 engines. The wings could also carry large amounts of fuel for super long missions. The wings were so big that the aircraft could cruise at altitudes over 40,000 fl. This was a real advantage because none of the 1940 aircraft or any of the early jet turbine fighter planes could even reach altitudes that high.
By 1954 all of the equipment not needed like 20 mm gun turrets was removed for the fleet of B-36 Peacemakers creating what was called at the time a (featherweight configuration). Dumping all the un-needed equipment pushed the cruise speed up to 423 mph and the service ceiling up to 50,000 feet and higher.
The large wing area allowed the addition of 4 jet engines to be added on pylons. The jet engines were used on takeoff and clime out then turned off to conserve fuel. Maneuverability at the high altitudes was much better than the USAF jet interceptors of the times. Even the interceptors of the day that could reach these altitudes would stall out trying to maneuver into to position to fire their guns.
B-36 propulsion consisted of 6 R-4360 Pratt & Whitney 28 cylinder piston radial “Wasp Major” engines. The early prototypes of the R-4360 all 6 delivered only 18,000 hp. This made the early Peacemakers very slow needing very long takeoff runways. Pratt & Whitney improved these engines over time boosting the horse power output to 22,800 greatly improving the performance. Each engine made use of a pusher prop with three blades and had a diameter of 19 ft. They created as many problems as they solved with the pusher propellers. The prevented turbulence from the propellers but the lack of airflow over the engines produced an overheating problem on the engines. The lack of airflow caused many engine fires while in-flight.
Starting with the introduction of the Convair B-36D model 4 General Electric J47-19 Jet engines were added on wing pylons. The American flyboys love to say we have (6 turnin and 4 burnin). The only mass-produced aircraft to ever have 10 engines putting out 40,000 horse power. The jet engines were not used full time because they burn too much fuel. But for takeoff performance improvement and (dash speed) over targets they were a tremendous help to the overall performance for short blasts of power when needed. Later all of the B-36Bs received the upgrade to the jet pods for performance improvement.
Similar to the B-29 Superfortress in design the B-36 carried a crew of 15 and the cockpit was connected to the crew compartment by a pressurized tunnel that went through the bomb bay. To get back and forth the tunnel made use of a trolley system. You had to pull yourself along with a rope. Space was at a premium but the crew compartment had 6 bunks and a small galley and was the way out to the tail gun turret.
One model the XB-36 was introduced with only single main landing gear under each wing. The tires for the single gear idea were 9’2” making the the largest tires ever made at the time. Each tire weighted 1,320 lbs and needed as much rubber as it took to make 60 car tires. The idea created so much weight per tire that the XB-36 could only land and takeoff from Fort Worth.
It wasn’t very long before the single wheels were switched out for the 4-wheel bogie. They tried one other design for landing gear. The set up track configurations similar to tanks but they made so much noise and were so heavy the switch back to the 4-wheel bogie was made very quickly.
There was a unique kind of bomb called a Cloudmaker T-12 that weighted 43,000 lbs the idea was the bomb was though to create an earthquake effect. The B-36 Peacemaker was the only aircraft large enough to carry it.
The first prototype YB-36 did not meet any of the Air Force requirements in 1946 but the second YB-36 did. It featured the new bubble canopy that became standard production. In December of 1947 the second prototype flew with more powerful engines that met the Air Force requirements.
B-36As delivered in 1948 were not really ready all 21 were basic airframes with no armaments. They were to be for early crew training and were later converted to RB-36E or reconnaissance aircraft. The next delivery was B-36B in November 1948 which met all the Air Force requirements of 1941.
There were major problems with reliability and maintenance spare parts and armaments. Just think when ground crews had to change spark plugs they had 336 to change for one airplane. The ground mechanics dreaded the job. But these problems improved over time as new engines with more power output were introduced.
Another think maintenance personnel hated was not temperature controlled hangars large enough to fit the B-36 were available. The huge aircraft had to station as close to the enemy as they could. This meant Alaska and the Artic so outdoors was the only place to perform maintenance. This could mean 100F in the summers and as low as -60F in the winters and their locations.
Any model airplane collection would be honored to have a B-36 Peacemaker it is a very unique aircraft.
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