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United States' Douglas A-26 Invader light attack bomber

Photos

  • Douglas XA-26 prototype
  • Douglas XA-26A prototype night fighter
  • Douglas-XA-26B prototype
  • Douglas A-26 Invader bomber

 

Design

In 1940 the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) put out a request for a two engine high performance bomber.

Edward Heinemann designed the A-26 Invader to replace the A-20 Boston, B-25 Mitchell, and B-26 Marauder in conjunction with the Air Corps' Experimental Engineering Section.

The early models had poor visibility and later models had a clam shell canopy that improved visibility and opening in-flight for emergencies.

There were initially two versions, one with a glass nose for bombing and the other with a solid nose for a night fighter.

The A-26B had oil cooler air intakes that were redesigned and increased performance by 80%.

The insides of the engine cowlings were painted to alleviate the glare that affected the pilots.

The bomb bay was between the cockpit and the rear gunner and the doors were two pieces that stretched from the cockpit to the ventral turret.

Prototype

In June 1941 three prototypes were ordered. One the XA-26 bomber, one the XA-26A night fighter, and the last the XA-26B ground attack bomber.

The prototype was the XA-26 #41-19504 and flew July 10, 1942.

Production

The A-26A night fighter version was cancelled as the Army was more interested in the P-61 Black Widow. The A-26B and A-26C were moved into production in October 1941 even before the prototypes were completed. The initial order was for 500 A-26s.

Events in the war drove the Materials Division to order that the first 500 would be the ground attack version with solid noses. Another 500 were ordered in March 1943. Delays caused production to not start until July 1943. In March 1944 an order for 5,000 more was placed.

By late 1944 A-26Bs were manufactured at Long Beach and A-26Cs at Tulsa.

  • Douglas XA-26: 1
  • Douglas XA-26A: 1
  • Douglas XA-26B: 1
  • Douglas A-26B: 1,355
    • Long Beach: 1,150
    • Tulsa: 205
  • Douglas A-26C: 1,091
    • Tulsa: 1,091
  • Douglas XA-26D: 1
  • Total: 2,446, 2,450, 2,451, 2,452
    • Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
    • Manufactured at: El Segundo, California; Long Beach, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma
    • Production: July 1943 - September 1945

At the end of the war over 5,250 / 5,254, that were ordered, were cancelled after VJ Day.

Variants

  • Douglas XA-26: Bomber prototype. Had a glazed nose section.
  • Douglas XA-26A: Night fighter prototype. Four 20 mm guns under fuselage. Four 12.7 mm machine guns in a dorsal turret that was remotely controlled.
  • Douglas XA-26B: Ground attack prototype. Had 75 mm gun in the nose.
  • Douglas XA-26D: Had 14 0.5" machine guns in nose and wings. Flew in 1945.
  • Douglas XA-26F: Converted an A-26B to be used as a test bed for the GE J31 jet engine. Had Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83 engines. Used four blade propeller.
  • Douglas A-26:
  • Douglas A-26A: Night fighter with a radar set and 4: 20 mm cannons in a ventral pack.
  • Douglas A-26B: Had ten 12.7 mm machine guns in under wing and under fuselage packs. Delivered to United States Air Force in November 1944. Had a solid nose. Top turret was fixed forward to be used against ground targets.
  • Douglas A-26C: Bomber version. Only two 12.7 mm machine guns in nose. Transparent bombardier station. Most saw action in the Pacific. A few had bombing radar installed. Sometimes were used as lead ships in bombing formations.
  • Douglas A-26D: Solid nose. To replace the A-26B. Model cancelled at end of war.
  • Douglas A-26E: Glass nose. To replace the A-26C. Model cancelled at end of war.
  • Douglas A-26F: Had four blade propeller. J31 turbo jet to boost speed. Was found to be not sufficient and was cancelled.
  • Douglas A-26G: Solid nose. Not ordered.
  • Douglas A-26H: Glass nose. More powerful engine. Revised canopy. Not ordered.
  • Douglas RB-26C: 30 B-26Cs modified in late the late 1940s and used for reconnaissance.

Usage

United States

In September 1943 the first A-26Bs were delivered.

Used towards the end in World War II, but also used in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

Sixty seven were lost in European operations and seven enemy planes were shot down by the A-26 Invaders.

New Guinea

The first four A-26Bs used in combat were in New Guinea with the 13th Bombardment Squadron. Low-level sorties were unpopular.

United Kingdom / Europe

Eighteen A-26s were received by the 553rd Bomb Squadron in Great Dunmow, England.

The first mission of the A-26s was on November 9, 1944, with the 9th Air Froce.

11,567 missions were flown and 18,054 tons / 18,344 tonnes bombs dropped.

One aircraft was credited with a probable kill of a Me 262 jet fighter.

Pacific

There were three A-26 USAAF bomb groups that were used against the Japanese on Okinawa, Taiwan, and mainland Japan.

88 A-26Cs were supplied to the United States Navy.

Korean War

The A-26 was changed to the B-26 and was used in the Korean War with 60,096 sorties flown. There were 1,054 B-26s still available. Damage inflicted on the enemy was 38,500 vehicles, 3,700 railway cars, 406 train engines, and seven planes.

Vietnam

B-26Bs and B-26Cs that were in Air National Guard units were used in Vietnam as night ground attackers. Additional models were used in counter-insurgency operations.

Retirement

The final B-26 (a staff transport) was retired in 1972.

Specifications

  A-26 Invader
Type Attack bomber
Crew 3
Engine (Type) 2: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27/79 Double Wasp
Cylinders Radial 18
HP 2,000 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 70'
21.34 m
Length 50' 9"
15.47 m
Height 18' 6"
5.64 m
Armament  
Nose 6: Heavy MG
Dorsal turret 2: MG
Ventral position 2: MG
Wings (special missions) 8: MG
Fuselage sides (special missions) 2: MG
Bombs - internal 4,000 lb
Rockets 16
  A-26B Invader, A-26B-1 Invader
Type Bomber, Light attack bomber, Tactical Support
Crew 3
Engine (Type) 2: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27
2: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 Double Wasp
2: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-79 piston
Cylinders Radial, Radial 18
Cooling Air
HP 2,000 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 70'
21.34 m, 21.35 m
Length 50', 50' 9"
15.24 m, 15.47 m
Height 18' 6"
5.64 m
Wing area 540 sq ft
50.17 sq m
Weight  
Empty 22,370 lb
10,147 kg
Loaded 35,000 lb
15,876 kg, 15,880 kg
Performance  
Speed 355 mph
Speed at 12,000' / 3,660 m 355 mph
572 kph
Speed at 15,000' / 4,572 m 355 mph
571 kph
Speed at 16,000' / 4,875 m 355 mph
572 kph
Cruising speed 284 mph
457 kph
Climb 2,000'/minute
610 m/minute
Climb to 10,000' / 3,048 m 8.1 minutes
Climb to 10,000' / 3,050 m 8.1 minutes, 8 minutes 6 seconds
Service ceiling 22,100'
6,735 m, 6,736 m
Range 1,400 miles
2,253 km, 2,255 km
Range with bomb load 1,400 miles
2,253 km
Armament 10: MG
Nose 6: 0.5" / 12.7 mm MG
Turret - Dorsal 2: 0.5" / 12.7 mm MG
Turret - Ventral 2: 0.5" / 12.7 mm MG
Ventral position 2: 12.7 mm MG
Bombs 4,000 lb, 6,000 lb
2,722 kg
Bombs - internal 4,000 lb
1,814 kg
Bombs - under wings 2,000 lb
907 kg
OR  
Rockets 8: 5"
16: 5"
8: 127 mm
16: 127 mm
  A-26B-60 Invader
Type Light bomber
Engine (Type) 2: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-79
Cylinders Radial 18
Cooling Air
HP 2,350 each
Propeller blades 3 constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 70'
Length 50' 8"
Wing area 540'2
Weight  
Empty 22,362 lb
Loaded 35,000 lb
Performance  
Speed at 15,000' 355 mph
Cruising speed 284 mph
Service ceiling 22,000'
Range 3,200 miles
Range - Combat 1,400 miles
Armament  
Nose 8: .50 cal MG
Wings 6: .50 cal MG
Dorsal turret 2: .50 cal MG
Ventral turret 2: .50 cal MG
Bombs - Total 6,000 lb
Bombs - Internal 4,000 lb
Bombs - Wings 2,000 lb
  A-26C Invader
Type Light attack bomber
Crew 3
Pilot, bombardier/navigator, gunner
Engine (Type) 2: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-79 Double Wasp piston
Cylinders Radial-18
HP 2,000 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 70'
21.34 m
Length 51' 3"
15.62 m
Height 18' 3"
5.56 m
Wing area 540 ft2
50.17 m2
Weight  
Empty 22,803 lb
10,365 kg
Loaded 34,927 lb
15,876 kg
Performance  
Speed 372 mph
600 kph
Climb 2,030'/minute
619 m/minute
Service ceiling 22,100'
6,735 m
Range 1,400 miles
2,253 km
Armament  
Nose 2: 12.7 mm MG
Dorsal turret 2: 12.7 mm MG
Ventral position 2: 12.7 mm MG
Bombs 4,000 lb
1,814 kg
Bombs - internal 4,000 lb
1,814 kg
Bombs - under wings 2,000 lb
907 kg

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  3. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  4. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  5. American Attack Aircraft Since 1926, E. R. Johnson, 2012
  6. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site