Aircraft History:

"The B-26 Invader was a larger, more ruggedly built version of the A-20 Havoc with more powerful engines, longer range, and heavier armament with remote power-driven gun turrets. It had a three man crew including a pilot, navigator and bombardier. It had the same high shoulder wing, but it was changed to a laminar flow design, the same type of wing that gave the P-51 Mustang its phenomenal performance. It was powered by 2,000 hp (1,490 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800s, which allowed it to pack more punch in the way of armament. There were many technological advances made during the war and the Invader took full advantage of them. One version had an incredible 18 forward firing 0.50 caliber machine guns. It remained in service for more than 25 years, while other light and medium bombers, such as the A-20 Havoc and B-26 Marauder, were scrapped as soon as the war was over. After World War II, the Invader served in Korea and Vietnam, making it the only American bomber to fly missions in three wars.

The Invader was designed to meet a 1940 US Army Air Corps (USAAC) requirement for multi-role light bomber for low-level and medium-altitude for precision bombing attacks, with heavy defensive armament. Three prototypes were ordered and the first XA-26A flew on October 31, 1941. It featured an advanced remote-controlled electrically powered dorsal and ventral turrets with each turret containing two 0.50 caliber machine guns. It had additional twin 0.50s located in the nose along with a glazed flat panel position for a bombardier. It also had the capacity to carry 3,000 lbs. (1,360 kg) of bombs and another 2,000 lbs. (900 kg) beneath the outer wing panels. The second prototype added Airborne Interception (AI) radar in the nose, four 0.50 caliber machine guns in the upper turret and four 20 mm cannons in a ventral fairing. With the introduction of the Northrop P-61, the A-26 night fighter version was never put into production. The third prototype had a 75 mm cannon mounted on the right side of a short solid nose with twin 0.50s mounted in the upper and lower turret.

The Invader came in some 700 lbs. (317 kg) below its designed weight and it was able to carry more than twice as many bombs than the USAAC requirement. Unlike the Havoc, that incorporated flaps that were slow to deploy and somewhat ineffective, the flaps on the Invader were double slotted and moved backward as well as down creating greater lift during takeoff and landing.

A lot of thought went into its defensive armaments and this caused some delays before production began. The first production attack version was the A-26B and it carried six 0.50 caliber machine guns, which was later increased to eight. There were two in the nose and two in each dorsal and ventral turret. The bomb load was increased to 4,000 lbs (1,815 kg) and it was powered by two 2,000 hp (1,490 kW) R-2800-27 or -71 engines.

Soon after going into service, the armament was increased for the ground-attack role. Eight 0.50 caliber machine guns were installed in under-wing blister packs. The upper turret was locked in the forward position and fired by the pilot. With eight 50s mounted in the nose, it had a total compliment of 18 forward firing guns. With its high speed and massive fire power, this was one hell of an attack airplane.

In the Pacific, the A-26 made its combat debut in July 1944 with the Fifth Air Force on New Guinea. The pilots in the 3rd Bomb Group's 13th Squadron, "The Grim Reapers", received the first four A-26s for evaluation and found the view from the cockpit to be poor for low-level attack. Visibility was greatly limited with the pilot positioned between the engine nacelles making it difficult to spot well hidden Japanese positions in the jungle. Forward-firing armament was also considered inadequate. General George Kenney, commander of the Far East Air Forces stated that, "We do not want the A-26 under any circumstances as a replacement for anything." Until changes could be made, the 3rd Bomb Group requested additional Douglas A-20 Havocs, although both types were used in composite flights."1

Specifications & Performance:

Crew: 3B-26 Invader Silh.jpg
Role: Ground Attack, Light Bomber
Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
Nation of Origin: United States
First Flight: July 10, 1942
Entered Service: September 10, 1943
Retired in the United States: 1969 (US)
Produced: n/a
Number Built: 2,503
Unit Cost: $242,595 (1942)
Engine: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 "Double Wasp" radial engine, 2,000 hp each
Span: 70 ft
Length: 50 ft
Height: 18 ft 3 in
Weight: 22,850 lb (empty); 27,600 lb (loaded)
Max Speed: 355 mph
Range: 1,400 mi
Service Ceiling: 22,000 ft

    Armament, notable: 

6 or 8 12.7mm M2 Browing machine guns
10 12.7cm HVAR rockets
Up to 6,000 lb bomb capacity 


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