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Consolidated 32 / B-24 Liberator / PB4 Privateer

 

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B-24C

 

The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) issued a new specification in 1935. This specification required the development of a new multi-engined, long-range heavy bomber capable of exceeding a top speed of 300 miles per hour, besting a range of 3,000 miles, maintaining a service ceiling of at least 35,000 feet and taking on an internal bombload minimum of 8,000lbs. Production of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was well underway and, in 1938, Consolidated was requested to help in its production. As part of the production initiative, Consolidated executives were brought to Boeing's plant in Seattle, Washington to visit the factory. It was this meeting that prompted Consolidated to submit their own heavy bomber design with a more modern flair. The USAAC granted Consolidated a design study in January of 1939 under C-212 with the intent that this new aircraft exceed the performance specifications (speed, range and ceiling) of the B-17 and be ready in time for production before the end of the war.

Consolidated wasted no time in developing their design - the Model 32 - and brought about a few revolutionary changes in the approach of American bomber designs. Model 32 sported a tricycle undercarriage - the first American bomber to do so. The monoplane wings were also held in a high shoulder-mounted position, themselves made wide and holding two engines to each wing leading edge in underslung nacelles. The high wings were of less surface area but promoted a higher fuel efficiency standard than the low-mounted assemblies on a B-17. Of note here was Consolidated's Model 31 (XP4Y Corregidor) foray which utilized the same "Davis" high aspect wing (or "Davis Wing"). This aircraft was of a twin-engine sort and designed as a flying boat. Ultimately, the design fell by the wayside when an order for 200 examples was cancelled by the United States Navy due to program delays and a lack of available Wright engines.

 

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The Davis Wing emerged from the mind of David R. Davis, an aeronautical engineer working on a new wing planform, a planform utilizing a short chord and high aspect ratio along with thickness suitable to fit engines and fuel while maintaining efficiency. His meeting in the summer of 1937 with Consolidated President Reuben H. Fleet allowed the wing design to flourish as one of the most utilized wing planforms of World War 2. The new wing was intended for use on the company's new flying boat design - the Model 31. Despite the Model 31's cancellation (only one example emerged from development), the wing was seen as a good step forward in the design of the upcoming B-24 Liberator and became a major Consolidated design mainstay thereafter.

Other features of the Model 32 included the selection of 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial piston engines, deep bomb bay fuselage and a twin vertical fin tail assembly. Every Liberator had four Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder.radial engines. The development process culminated in an offered contract on March 30th, 1939, for a flyable prototype under the designation of XB-24.

The natural finish prototype, Serial 39-680 which had red-white-blue rudder stripes, flew on December 29, 1939, from Lindberg Field in California with 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 radial piston engines of 1,000 horsepower each. The prototype was subsequently modified to become the XB-24B, with self-sealing fuel tanks, armour and turbo-superchargers. The latter were placed beneath the nacelles.

Later B-24s had the R-1830-41, -43 or (from 1942) -65, all rated at 1,200 hp and with power at high altitudes maintained by a turbosuper-charger under the nacelle. Almost all aircraft had 11-ft 7-in Hamilton Standard three-blade propellers, without spinners. A basic feature of the air-craft was large fuel capacity, giving it exceptional range. From the first there were 12 flexible cells between the ribs of the wing centre section, and from 1942 three auxiliary tanks were added in each outer wing. The aircraft failed to reach the projected top speed of the original design intentions but, overall, the first flight was a success. To help iron out the prototype design, a further six YB-24/LB-30A evaluation/pre-production models were ordered, built and delivered. These were followed by the B-24, seven examples of which only one was used for service testing. The B-24 featured de-icing boots and deleted the leading edge slots of previous forms.

Liberators were crewed (depending on the model) by 7 to 10 personnel. The pilot and co-pilot were situated in the high-mounted stepped flight deck with views forward, to the sides and above. The nose gunner, bomber and navigator were housed under a glazed nose well forward in the design. The nose gunner had access to the powered nose turret if the model of Liberator called for one, fitting 2 x 12.7mm machine guns.. Bombardiers and pilots shared a common role for the bombardier would be called on to take flight control of the bomber when engaging in the bombing run via auto-pilot. The navigator could utilise the forward-mounted Plexiglas dome to get his bearings as well as relying on physical landmarks below. If "cheek" machine guns were fitted on a Liberator model, the navigator could man one. The dorsal turret gunner also doubled as the flight engineer and probably maintained the best defensive vantage point, offering an exceptional firing arc when compared to all other available gunner positions. The turret mounted 2 x 12.7mm machine guns. The radioman was situated within the upper portion of the Liberator's fuselage, positioned just behind the cockpit. Radiomen were required to keep logs of all pertinent actions and could be called upon to man one of the waist guns if needed. The forward flight crew was removed from the rear flight crew, with access between the two sections of the bomber made via a thin scaffold running the length of the two bomb compartments. Entry and exit to the aircraft was through a door positioned towards the rear which made for harrowing emergency exits. Forward crewmen were expected to exit the aircraft by walking across the bomb bay scaffold and make their way to the rear all the while fitted with their parachutes and bulky warming flight suits. The smallest bomber personnel were generally enlisted for operation of the ball turret fitting 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns. These fellows wore no parachutes (the small size of the ball turret necessitated this) and made their way inside their turrets after the aircraft was in flight. The ball turret - unlike that on the B-17 - could be retracted into the Liberator's fuselage during take-off and landing. The ball turret was perhaps the coldest position on a given B-24 with many a crewmember reporting frostbite through those frigid high-altitude sorties.

Waist gunners had single 12.7mm machine guns. These two positions - left and right - were later staggered to compensate for each gunners firing arc. Unlike other turreted positions in the B-24, spent shell casings at these waist positions were not jettisoned from the aircraft automatically, forcing crewmembers to clear their areas themselves. Since firing from these side-perspective positions required a great deal of hand-to-eye coordination via tracer rounds while taking into account target speed and the Liberator's airspeed itself, waist gunners relied on simple targeting sights in the early years. Only later did they receive assistance in the form of compensating sights to help improve accuracy. The tail gunner was given a powered 2 x 12.7mm machine gun turret.
The B-24 utilized a great deal of hydraulics with such systems spanning nearly every internal inch of the aircraft. Fuel on the B-24 was situated in the wings, just inboard of the inboard set of engines as well as in the upper portion of the bomb bay. As such, any direct hit could easily set the entire aircraft on fire in seconds.

The Army Air Corps ordered seven YB-24s for trials and a further three dozen B-24As for service evaluation. The French ordered 120 B-24As, and even more were purchased by Britain, whose orders embraced a score of Liberators similar to the YB-24.

Production began at Consolidated's San Diego plant of which the first six were earmarked for the French Air Force as LB-30A models. With the fall of France in 1940, these aircraft made it to British Royal Air Force hands via Lend-Lease. The French Armée de l’Air had ordered 175 Consolidated 32B7. The RAF found their early production forms to be unsuitable for the rigors of combat for they were not even fitted with self-sealing fuel tanks and relegated them to ferry type duties. The USAAC called for 36 of the aircraft while the British ordered 164 for the RAF. Upon reception of the aircraft, the British bestowed the name of "Liberator", the United States military accepted the British name of Liberator as part of the official designation from then on.

The first of a batch of six Model 32 LB-30s (this latter being the special designation applied to the first British aircraft) first flew on January 17, 1941. These aircraft, AM258-263, were used on the Return Ferry Service between Scotland and Canada from March 1941, and were also operated by BOAC. Since they had been envisaged as bombers they wore the brown-greenblack finish of British machines and had grey serials on their fuselages.

Twenty-six Liberator Is, AM910-929, began to arrive in Britain in the middle of 1941. Five Liberator Is going to BOAC. Some of these were subsequently fitted with a ventral cannon tray in addition to two tail guns and one in each beam position. In such state, and with a full array of ASV aerials on the fuselage top, wings and nose, these aircraft were delivered to No 120 Squadron at Nutt's Corner to supplement, and later to replace, its Wellingtons. The white Liberators, with their grey and green upper surface camouflage wearing what appeared as a faded or washed-out tone, had grey codes and serials. They were very long-range aircraft able to patrol far out into the Atlantic, and began operations in September 1941. On October 22, AM926: OH-F (OH being aft of the roundel on the starboard side, forward on the port) flown by F1t Lt T. Bulloch, DFC, attacked a U-boat; a year later, AM929: OH-H, flown by Bulloch, sank U-653. By this time many other Liberators were in service.

June 1941 saw the initial Liberator deliveries to the USAAC who received nine LB-30s similar to the RAF's Mk Is, and these were used mainly as transports which undertook some very long flights. Some of these B-24As wore the same colouring as the LB-30s, and one was lost in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

Britain also ordered 165 LB-30s on its own account, and these were built to RAF requirements as Liberator IIs, though only 139 reached Britain (AL503-641), 25 going to the US Army. The Mk II had Boul-ton Paul four-gun dorsal and tail turrets (These were in addition to a .303 in gun in the nose and two others in the beam positions), a lengthened nose of 2 feet 7 inches, Cur-tiss propellers, armour, self-sealing tanks and many other changes. Deliveries began to reach the RAF from March 1942. The second aircraft, AL504, was later rebuilt as Win-ston Churchill’s personal VIP transport, with many features of the later C. IX, including a longer fuselage and tall single fin. To a generally similar standard 38 B-24As were ordered, but only nine were delivered and most were used without armament on the Atlantic ferry service.

 

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Liberator II

 

In the main these Liberators, which had the green-black-brown finish, were used by Nos 159, 160, 178 and 511 Squadrons. No 160 formed at Thurleigh near Bedford on January 16, 1942. Operational employment for part of the squadron was first found as a unit of Coastal Command from May 8, 1942, at Nutt's Corner.

Meanwhile the main part of the squadron moved East, and eventually settled at Aqir. Following bomber operations, the unit reformed at Ceylon where it was destined to receive Mk IIIAs and later, the Mk V. No 159 Sqn also formed in England and followed a similar career. It participated in mine-laying, overseas patrols, supply drops and even reconnaissance sorties.

No 178 Sqn spent much time in the Middle East where it formed up at St Jean in Palestine, and later took part in operations in the Western Desert, over. Italy and deep into Eastern Europe. Some of the Mk IIs were used by 511 Sqn as transports, whose forerunner, 1425 F1t, had operated Mk Is. Other IIs entered service with Coastal Command.

Meanwhile American developments of the B-24 were materialising. On the XB-24B the engine cowlings appeared oval in shape, since the oil coolers were now placed on the cowling sides. With R-1830-41 engines of 1,200 horsepower, to absorb the greater power at high altitudes paddle-blade Hamilton Standard propellers were fitted. The XB-24 prototype served as the conversion model, which now gained a top speed increase equal to 37 miles per hour. The XB-24B went on to become the first definitive operational Liberator forms in service with Britain and the United States.

This was a feature of the B-24C, which had a dorsal turret immediately aft of the cockpit, and a Consolidated rear turret to increase the defensive power of the beam guns. Nine of this version were built. It was its successor, the B-24D, which was first to join the American bomber groups. Twenty of the B-24As originally ordered were completed as B-24Ds, but when the total production was completed 2,425 B-24D-CO, 303 B-2413-CF and ten more by Douglas Aircraft had been built. On this, the second most numerous B-24 variant, a very large number of modifications were incorporated, including armament changes and modifications to armour, gun positions and fuel loads.

Nine B-24A models became B-24C models with this engine. B-24C models were essentially A-models but fitted with R-1830-41 series turbo-supercharged engines for increased performance. These engines also featured revised cowlings to differentiate the type further from her origins. Additionally, improvements of the this aircraft fell into the category of defense for a Martin powered turret (2 x 12.7mm machine guns) was installed to the forward portion of the fuselage and an Emerson A-6 powered turret completed the armament in the rear tail gun position.

The B-24D became the first quantitative production run of the Liberator series. These were somewhat similar in nature to the B-24C models before them but fitted improved R-1830-43 supercharged radial piston engines. Improvements to defense were made yet again, with the ventral machine gun position replaced by a remote Bendix-brand belly turret during production. This was still further improved upon with the addition of the Sperry ball turret with 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns and a wider firing arc. Late production D-models were given 12.7mm heavy machine guns in their "cheek" positions to protect the forward left and right side angles of the aircraft. 2,381 B-24Ds were made at San Diego, 305 built at Fort Worth and 10 from Douglas at Tulsa.
The D had extra tanks in the outer wings and gross weight reached 27,216 kg (60,000 lb).

It was some of the early B-24Ds that the Americans sent to Britain in 1942, when between August and October No 93 Bomb Group settled at Alconbury and on October 9, despatched 24 Liberators (14 of which aborted) with the B-17s that bombed the Fives-Lille factory in Northern France.

During December 1942 the 93rd BG sent a large detachment to North Africa for operations there until March 1943, leaving the 44th BG which had moved to Shipdham, Norfolk, between August and October and commenced operations in November, to continue attacks on the Continent.  

The B-24Ds of these units were nearly all despatched to the Middle East late in July 1943 to participate in more attacks in the Mediterranean area, during the invasion of Sicily and in the disastrous Ploesti low-level raid. The survivors returned to Britain late in August, but small detachments continued to operate in the Middle East. For this reason the Liberator element of the VIIIth Air Force remained small until the winter of 1943-44. By this time later versions of the B-24 were in service.

In the course of production the ventral tunnel gun was replaced by a twin 0.5-in Sperry ball turret, standard on most subsequent bomber versions. The RAF equipped 37 squad-rons with the Liberator III (British purchase B-24D) and IIIA (Lend-Lease), these retain-ing the four 0.303 tail turret, while 977 B-24Ds went to the US Navy as PB4Y-1 long-range ASW aircraft.

The British version of the B-24D was the Liberator III, which was also used by the RAF in two other forms, the Mk IIIA with US equipment and armament, and the Mk V with extensive AW radar fitted in a chin radome and another which replaced the ball turret of the bomber. The standard III had 4 x .303 in guns in her tail turret, a two-gun dorsal turret, one gun in the nose and provision for two beam guns.

Three camouflage schemes were worn by these aircraft. The Coastal Command Liberator III/IIIA/V aircraft had white sides and under-surfaces, with grey and green upper surfaces as applied to the Mk Is. Usually the code letters were grey, but some aircraft had black or red coding. Overseas the maritime reconnaissance Liberators also wore these colours. Such Mk IIIs as were used overseas as bombers retained the olive drab/dark grey finish common to Lend-Lease bombers, and when repainting was undertaken the similar British colourings were applied. A few Liberator IIIs had a green-brown-black finish, and were to be seen in use as transports operating from Britain on the India run after the war.

Some of the IIIs had a Leigh Light fitted.

Apart from their chin radomes, the Mk Vs were similar to the IIIs, which usually had their ball turrets replaced, too, by a radome.

For much of the war Coastal Command relied upon the Mk V, and only during the final year of hostilities did the nose-turreted versions enter service. The Mk III was first used by 120 Sqn during the Summer of 1942, when this was still the only home-based Liberator squadron utilising to the full the long range of the Liberator. By the end of 1943 three Coastal squadrons had IIIs, Nos 120, 86 at Thorney Island and 224 at Beaulieu. During the first half of the year the VLR Mk Vs came into service with Nos 59 and 86 Sqns at Aldergrove, with 53 at Thorney Island, 224 at St Eval, and at Beaulieu where 311 was based. The turn of the year found 120 Sqn mainly using Vs, yet holding on to a handful of the old Mk Is. By mid 1944, when the early Liberator strength was at its peak, Nos 59, 53, 120, 224, 200, 311, 354 and 547 had Mk Vs while Nos 86 and 160 were among those still using IIIs.

In the Autumn of 1943 the US VIIIth Air Force rapidly built up its 2nd Air Division, which was entirely equipped with Liberators and based in East Anglia.

Standard US insignia was now to be seen on the B-24s, the period when the Americans had been flying Liberators with grey stars (except for flight leaders) seemingly over. By the turn of the year, such B-24Ds as were still in use had, in a few instances, shed their camouflage; but those which lived longer in many cases were awarded the most bizarre markings ever carried by operational military aircraft. The intention for the strange colourful was to serve as rallying points for the bombers, as they formed up over Eastern England into their battle formations.

Ford Motor Company produced the B-24E model series, these being fitted with R-1830-65 series radial piston engines. Despite the removal of the ventral machine gun in the improved D-models, these E-models retained them over the Bendix/Sperry ball turrets. Due to the limitations in armament, these Liberators primarily served the United States Army Air Force as pilot, bombardier, gunnery and crew trainers.

The B-24E had Curtiss propellers, most having the new R-1830-65 engine. This was the first version made at the Ford plant at Willow Run (490), 144 being added by Fort Worth and 167 by Douglas Tulsa.

The XB-24F was a single prototype modified from a B-24D model and used for de-icing testing.

B-24G models were North American Aviation-produced Liberator B-24D version of which 25 examples were built. These Liberators featured the Sperry ball turret and up to 3 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns in the powered nose turret and armour against head-on attacks. The B-24G-1 was a modified G-model form sporting a new Emerson A-6 tail turret. 405 examples of this model were ultimately produced.

Thousands of B-24Ds were likewise com-pleted with a nose turret, of the same flat-fronted Emerson type as on the G, with a bombardier station in the chin position. These were called B-24H, Fort Worth making 738, Tulsa 582 and Willow Run 1,780. Most of the Tulsa and Willow Run machines had the sloping-front Consolidated hydraulic nose turret, and either this or the Motor Products A-6B was fitted to the B-24J, which also brought in the C-1 autopilot and M-9 bombsight.
As such, the fuselage was revised with a new bombardier's compartment to make room for the placement of an Emerson A-6 nose turret. This turret was nothing more than a modified version of the tail turret utilized in previous production examples. A revised tail turret greeted the tail gunner and offered up better views through larger windows. The waist gunners were now positioned in a staggered arrangement to offset their firing arcs and prevent onboard collisions of the two gunners in the heat of combat. The top turret was slightly revised with a higher canopy providing for better visibility for the gunner.

The B-24J was produced in 6,678 examples and were based on the B-24H models sans the defensive armament revisions. Nevertheless, these J-models were given a much-improved autopilot and bombsight system.

The XB-24K was a proposed Liberator derivative by Ford. The idea revolved around fitting the empennage of a Douglas B-23 Dragon twin-engine bomber to the existing airframe of the Liberator. A single prototype was produced as such by converting a B-24D. Though the new aircraft flew with promise - providing for improved handling - such a project during the thick of wartime was deemed much too expensive to undertake and thusly was dropped from serious production consideration. Ford would have handled production of this new B-24N but the order was cancelled on May 31st, 1945. The XB-24K did, however, set the stage for the PB4Y-1 navalized production version of the United States Navy's Liberator fleet and ultimately led up to the definitive fully-navalized PB4Y-2 "Privateer" model.

The B-24L appeared as a result of the USAAF wanting the weight of the B-24J models reduced. Revisions to this model included the removal of the ventral ball turret and the replacement of the A-6B tail turret with a lightweight M-6A turret or no tail armament at all. The ventral gun turret was replaced by a ring-mounted system sporting 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns. 1,667 examples of this model were produced.

The B-24M was another attempt to lighten the B-24.This included the use of a lighter A-6B tail turret and uncovered waist gunner positions. The 2,593 M-models represented the last Liberator production models to see the light of day, with a good number never even being delivered to frontline units and instead scrapped.

The Liberator was evolved into a variety of developmental forms. These included the XB-24N with its single vertical tail fin (would have been produced as the B-24N) and the seven pre-production forms of the N-model in the YB-24N. The XB-24P was a single converted B-24D model used by the Sperry Gyroscope Company to evaluate various in-flight armaments and related systems. The XB-24Q was another single prototype examples, this time produced by General Electric, to showcase radar-controlled turrets. The XC-109/C-109 became a fuel ferry transport in support of Boeing B-24 Superfortress missions over Japan. These Liberators were fitted with special modifications to assist in prevention of onboard explosions of fuel during transport.

The XB-41 was a concept to provide flights of B-24 bombers with similar Liberators armed to the teeth as floating gunship escorts. Though promising on paper, in actual practice the system proved unusable with substantial drops in performance. A single prototype was completed for evaluation and sported no less than 14 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns. Instead of a bombload, the bomb bay was fitted with up to 11,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition. Power was derived from 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp radial piston engines of 1,250 horsepower. When evaluated in-flight as escorts alongside the base Liberator bomber, this particular Liberator was unable to keep pace while the aircraft also propagated stability issues and, as such, the proposition for such a machine was ultimately axed in 1943.

The Liberator airframe was utilized for training of various flight crew. These were known by the designations of AT-22 (TB-24), RB-24L, TB-24L and C-87. The RB-24L deserves note here for they were utilized to train Boeing B-29 gunnery crews on remote gun systems as found on the B-24L. The TB-24L was similar to the RB-24L with an increase to radar equipment carried aboard. Base C-87s were used for the training of future Liberator engineers.

The C-87 "Liberator Express" was a 20-passenger transport and appeared in A- (16-passenger VIP transports with R-1830-45 radial engines and sleeping berths), B- (proposed armed passenger transport), and C-models (RY-3 of the USAAF).

Photographic reconnaissance versions of the Liberator were in no short supply. The XF-7 represented the prototype based on the B-24D model. The F-7 was the initial reconnaissance platform developed from the B-24H. The B-24J was the basis of the F-7A while the F-7B was of a similar mold, though sporting up to six cameras in the bomb bay as opposed to the previous type's three.

The BQ-8 were converted B-24D and B-24J models at the end of their useful operational lives, outfitted to serve as radio-controlled flying bombs.

 

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PB4Y-2 Privateer

 

The PB4Y-2 "Privateer" was a truer "navalized" and dedicated form of the Liberator and based on Ford's B-24K idea which fitted the tail section of a Douglas B-32 Dragon and its single vertical tail fin for improved stability. The USN made good on 739 examples of this type of which served on even into the Korean War, ultimately retired in 1954.

The US Navy operated the PB4Y-1, which was basically a stock USAAF B-24D with appropriate naval gear added. PB4Y-1 also served to cover all future G-, J-, L- and M-models of the Liberator in USN service. The PB4Y-P became a photographic reconnaissance variant based on the PB4Y-1. However, the USN wanted their own low-altitude heavy patrol bomber and contracted with Consolidated in San Diego to produce such a craft. Initially known as the Sea Liberator, the new aircraft was a considerable departure from the B-24. While incorporating the same outer wing and landing gear as the B-24, the PB4Y-2 (Consolidated Model 100) featured a fuselage that was lengthened by seven feet and a large single vertical tail. The engines were Pratt & Whitney R-1830-94s without turbosuperchargers and were fitted in new nacelles. XTO bottles could be added to the fuselage and an imposing armament of twelve .50-caliber Browning air-cooled machine guns was distributed in an Erco nose turret, two Martin dorsal turrets, two huge Erco side blisters, and a Motor Products tail turret.
The first three PR4Y-2s were converted from existing PB4Y-1 airframes and initially retained their distinctive twin vertical tails. The first example flew on 20 September 1943. After initial flight testing, an order was given on 15 October for the delivery of 660 aircraft which had by now been designated as Privateers. This order was followed by another for 770 airframes about one year later. Consolidated began deliver-ing aircraft in March 1944 and production extended to October 1945 but was limited to a total of 740 Privateers by the successful conclusion of the war.
The P5Y was a proposed twin-engine version of the PB4Y-1 but never produced. The C-87 transport version became the RY-1 (C-87A), the RY-2 (C-87 base) and the RY-3 (a dedicated transport alternative of the PB4Y-2 "Privateer").

The first operational squadrons to receive the type comprised VPB-118 and -119 who took their Privateers overseas beginning in January 1945. The planes began operating out of Tinian, searching for enemy subs, shipping, aircraft, and land targets. By the end of the Pacific War, the Navy was operating 13 Privateer squadrons while five other squadrons flew a mixture of Privateers and PB4Y-1s.
After WW2, the Privateer stayed in front-line use and three squadrons (VP-772, VP-871, and VP-28) saw action in the Korean War where, carrying 250 parachute flares apiece, they flew in support of Marine night operations against the enemy. After Korea, Privateers were used for a variety of secondary missions including con-version to drones and drone directors. The US Coast Guard also used a small number of Privateers modified for search and rescue duties.
A few Privateers were also used by foreign nations, the most notable being France, which initially received ten PB4Y-2 aircraft in late 1950 for use against communist in-surgents in French Indochina. The aircraft were used as bombers and several were lost in action, but more Privateers were supplied from US stocks and the French eventually received 24 planes. After the French defeat in Indochina, the aircraft saw action in the Algerian war of independence before the last five examples were withdrawn and scrapped in 1961.
During the late 1950s, surplus Privateers were made available to civilian buyers during sales at Litchfield Park, Arizona. Quite a few aircraft were sold, but the majority were rapidly scrapped or abandoned since they were being purchased for their -94 engines only. At this time, the engines (which were being used for "super" DC-3 civilian transport conversions) were more valuable than the airframes. However, a Restricted Certificate (AR-29) was obtained by Transaire Spraying Co. of Canyon, Texas, to register civilian Privateers as large acreage sprayers and fire bombers.

Whereas many early B-24s and LB-30s were completed or modified as transports, the desperate need for capable long-range transports in the evacuation of Malaya the Dutch East Indies and related areas forced the urgent development of a properly designed model. This went into produc-tion at Fort Worth in April 1942 as the Liberator Express. The main version, with 278 built, was the C-87. This was unarmed (some retained a 0.5-in gun in the tail), but had a large loading door, strong cargo floor and 20 to 25 removable passenger seats. Normal payload with maximum fuel was 4536 kg (10,000 lb), and 24 were sup-plied to the RAF as the C.VII. The RY-1 and RY-2 were navy con-versions, while the C-87A was a VIP version, usually with 16 seats or 10 berths. Five were completed as AT-22 crew trainers, mainly for training flight engineers. A total of 236 B-24Ds was supplied to the RAF, where they were completed as GR.V ASW aircraft for Coastal Command with radar, Leigh light and ASW equipment. Of these, 23 were then converted as C.V transports.
In 1943-44 this was the standard model, San Diego building 2,792, Fort Worth 1,558, Tulsa 205, Dallas 536 and Willow Run 1,587. Many were completed as navy PB4Y-ls, with a spherical Erco nose turret and ASW radar instead of the ball turret. The C-109 (208 converted) was a tanker to carry fuel ‘over the hump’ from Burma to China, while 213 (of various models, mainly Js) were converted as F-7 armed reconnaissance aircraft. The RAF received over 1,000 of the H and J models as the B.VI, GR.VJ and C.VI.
By April 1944 all new aircraft were unpainted, and fitted with the high-power B-22 turbosupercharger. Shortly afterwards production switched to the B-24L with the tail turret re-placed by a much lighter barbette with a wider arc of fire. San Diego built 417 and Willow Run 1,250, some being converted into RB-24L trainers for B-29 gunners with remote sighting stations for B-29-type turrets. The final production bomber was the B-24M, with a lightweight Motor Products tail turret; San Diego built 916 and Willow Run 1,677. There were also numerous experimental models, such as the XB-24P with a radar-equipped gunfire control system, and the XB-24Q used as a testbed for the radar-directed tail turret of the B-47. The XB-24F had the pneumatic de-icer boots - which had to be carefully inspected after every mission to make sure there was not even the smallest cut caused by a flak splinter - replaced by a more efficient thermal system, but it remained a one-off. Other one-offs included the XB-41, an early B-24D modified as an escort fighter with seven pairs of 0.5-in guns; a B-24H (built originally as an E) modified with a twin 0.5-in barbette on each side, controlled from a waist sighting station; and a unique B-24 onto which was grafted the complete nose of a B-17G Fortress!
As early as 1942 it had been recognised that the B-24 could be redesigned with a single vertical tail which would enhance the poor flight stability and also offer other advantages. On 6 March 1943 a B-24D flew with the tail of a Douglas B-23, and after some refinement this back-end was built on the 42-40234, which began life as a B-24D but had an A-6A front turret. It became the XB-24K, the conversion being done at Willow Run by Ford, who also fitted 1,350-hp R-1830-75 engines. The result was a far better aircraft, perhaps the first Liberator with good flight performance and handling.
Convair added longer nacelles housing bigger oil tanks, a new nose and tail with lightweight ball turrets, better cockpit visibility and other changes, and got down to building this as the B-24N. Seven only were completed when B-24 production was stopped on 31 May 1945, 5,168 being cancelled.
Independently, in 1943 the US Navy began working with Con-vair on an optimised ocean patrol and ASW version. This first flew as the prototype XPB4Y-2 Privateer on 20 September 1943, itself a modified B-24 Liberator. This incorporated the extremely tall single fin already developed for the Navy RY-3 transport, all 40 of which were supplied to the RAF as Liberator C.IX transports (as noted, the much earlier VIP aircraft AL504 Commando, was modified close to C. IX standard). Apart from the new tail the PB4Y-2 introduced a completely revised fuselage, further stretched to 22.73m (74 ft 7 in), 1,350-hp R-1830-94 engines without turbos, resulting in the cowlings being elliptical vertically instead of horizontally, and defensive armament of six pairs of 0.5-in guns (nose, forward dorsal, aft dorsal, left and right waist and tail). Fuel capacity was enhanced and the normal crew was increased to 11, with extensive radar, ASW and electronic-warfare equipment. There was provision for 3628 kg (8,000 lb) of bombs, torpedoes, mines, depth charges or other stores, and underwing pylons could be fitted for the ASM-N-2 Bat anti-ship cruise missile which saw much action in 1945. Three prototype PB4Y-2's were ordered and flown, all based on the preceding PB4Y-1 Navy models, designed specifically for anti-submarine warfare.


The Privateer operated well into the years encompassing the Korean War, serving in some capacity as Elint (electronic intelligence) models. A single Privateer was also the first casualty of the Cold War, being engaged and shot down by Soviet forces. Some Privateers were utilized in the maritime patrol mission as well. In all, it was an economical stop-gap design that served well for a number of years - too late for much use in World War 2, but serving an effective role in the post-war years nonetheless.
The total production count was well over 1,300 examples by the end of its production run.
A total of 18,430 Liberators having been built.
Unlike the B-24 the Privateer remained in service after the war, being redesignated P4Y-2 in 1952. There were several post-war versions, including the P4Y-2G for the Coast Guard, with no armament and considerable modification, and the special ‘ferret’ electronic-warfare versions which, together with similarly equipped Martin P4M Mer-cators, carried out the Navy’s Elint (electronic intelligence) missions during the post-war years. One PB4Y, operating from Wiesbaden over the Baltic on 8 April 1950, was shot down by a MiG-15, all 10 crew being killed. The Privateer also got to drop bombs in anger. Serving with Flottilles 8F/28F of the Aéronavale, the type was used in the bomber role throughout the French Colonial War in Indo-China.

 

740 P4Y-2's were built for the U.S. Navy and several remained in service in 1955 for overseas reconnaissance P4Y-2S), as motherplanes for Bat guided missiles (PB4Y-2B), and as target drones (PBY-2K). All had four 1350 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-94 engines.

 

British Liberators

Early British Liberators were the LB-30A and LB-30B models of which very few were constructed and delivered, these via Lend-Lease. LB-30A's were originally intended for French use and fell into British hands in six examples with the fall of France. The Liberator B.Mk I's (LB-30B) were B-24A's of which 20 were delivered to the Royal Air Force. These were eventual initial disappointments for the RAF which saw fit to give them new life as Liberator GR.1s used in anti-submarine sorties.

The Liberator B.Mk II was next and were closest in nature to B-24C models. These Liberators had their fuselages extended by three feet with a revised deeper fuselage and expanded tail plane unit. 165 examples of these Liberators were produced and became the first "combat-worthy" British Liberators. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used a refurbished Liberator II as his personal transport.

The Liberator B.Mk III were based on B-24D models fitting appropriate British-requested internal systems. Defense was handled by a single machine gun in the nose (.303 caliber), a twin-gun dorsal turret, two waist gun positions and a 4 x machine gun battery located in an Avro Lancaster-type tail turret. At least 156 of the type were delivered. The Liberator B.Mk IIIAs were nothing more than B-24D models retaining their American-based equipment and armament.

The Liberator B.Mk V were D-models revised to carry more fuel with less armor while retaining the defensive armament capabilities of the Liberator B.Mk III models. The Liberator B.Mk VI were B-24H models with the defensive armament of H-models but Boulton Paul tail turrets. B-24J models were represented as Liberator B.Mk VIIIs.

RAF Coastal Command modified several B-24D models for the anti-submarine role complete with the Leigh Light 22-million candela search light (carried underwing), search radar and air-to-surface rockets. Coastal Command also made use of the Liberator GR.Mk VI (B-24G/H/J models) as long-range reconnaissance forms and B-24J models under the Liberator GR.Mk VIII designation for the anti-submarine role.

The Liberator C.Mk IV were B.Mk VIII models modified to serve as transports while Liberator C.Mk VII was the designation used to cover C-87s. Liberator C.Mk VIII models were nothing more than G.Mk VIII modified to be used as transports.

The Royal Air Force designated their RY-3/C-87Cs as Liberator C.Mk IX.
The B-24 was officially retired as soon as the war ended - this occurring in 1945. A single Liberator unit cost American taxpayers between $297,627 and $336,000 US at the time of her production. Production years ranged from 1940 until 1945.
Although often overshadowed by the B17 Flying Fortress, the B24 Liberator was built in greater numbers than any other US military aircraft
18500 aircraft being built by Consolidated, Douglas, North American and Ford between 1940 and 1945.
1900 B24s were supplied to the Royal Air Force. Liberators were used by RAF bomber squadrons in the Middle East, and from January 1944 became the principle RAF strategic bomber in the Far East. Liberators were also deployed by RAF Coastal Command, playing a key role in the war against Germany's submarine fleet. Liberators also saw service as transports; AL504 Commando became the personal aircraft of Prime Minister Winston Churchill for a short time.
Liberators continued in use until December 1968 when the Indian Air Force retired its former RAF machines.
Six from the first batch for the UK were directed to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) for use in the North Atlantic Return Ferry Service. During WWII, Captain D.C.T. Bennett known as Pathfinder Bennett, flew the first crossing on 14 May 1941 taking 14½ hours. The thousandth crossing of the Atlantic took place in September 1944.

The C-87 Liberator Express was a transport version of the B-24D bomber.
The first Liberator transport was created by converting B-24D serial number 42-40355 which had been damaged in a crash landing in the Arizona desert in early 1942. All of the bombing equipment and defensive armament were deleted, and the nose glazing where the bombardier sat was replaced by a sheet metal nose which hinged to the right. A floor was installed through the bomb bay and into the waist compartment. Rectangular windows were cut into the sides of the fuselage, and 25 seats were added. There was a large 6x6 door incorporated into the port side of the fuselage. The navigator's compartment was relocated to a position just aft of the pilot's cockpit, and an astrodome was installed where the top turret had been located. The tail turret was removed and replaced by a metal fairing. The crew was normally four--pilot, copilot, navigator, and radio operator.
The prototype was flown to Bolling Field in Washington, DC for evaluation. The Army was sufficiently impressed that they ordered the aircraft into production as the C-87 Liberator Express. All of the C-87s were built at Consolidated/Fort Worth and were delivered between September 2, 1942 and August 10, 1944. The first 73 C-87s were conversions from existing B-24Ds, with the remainder being built from scratch on the Fort Worth production line as transports. A total of 287 C-87s were built by Consolidated/Fort Worth. The C-87s were not assigned production block numbers, but there were six different versions of the C-87 that were built which incorporated a number of specific changes.
Most C-87s were assigned to Air Transport Command. When Burma fell to the Japanese in April of 1942, China's only route to the Allied supply line, the Burma Road, was cut. The only route to China from India was now by air, involving a treacherous flight over the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world. This route came to be known as the *Hump*. On September 12, 1943, the Air Transport Command established a new route to China via the Hump. This route began at Patterson Field, Ohio and ended in China. This round trip route covered 28,000 miles and took twelve days to complete. ATC C-87s became an important part of this operation. So dangerous was this route that the USAAF ended up losing three crewmen for each thousand tons of cargo that reached China. The Hump operation ended up costing the lives of over a thousand USAAF crewmen.
During the war, so great was the need for an air transportation system that the Army was forced to turn to the commercial airlines to help operate the system. In addition to ATC, four commercial airlines operated the Liberators under contract. These were Consairways, American Airlines, United Air Lines, and T&WA.
Consairways was organized as a separate subsidiary of Consolidated Aircraft. The original purpose of Consairways was to return the crews ferrying aircraft to the Pacific back to the USA, but it later ended up flying cargo of just about every imaginable type back and forth between the USA and the Pacific theatre. It also flew USO shows to entertain the troops in the Pacific. Consairways operated a mixture of LB-30s, C-87s, and B-24s. Two C-87s known to have been operated by Consairways were 41-24029 and 41-11706.
In January of 1943, American Airlines was awarded a contract by ATC to operate C-87s over North Atlantic and South Atlantic routes. These planes flew in military insignia and markings and carried USAAF serials, but were operated by civilian crews. Later, American Airlines personnel also flew numerous dangerous Hump missions. C-87s flown by American Airlines: 41-11608, 41-11639, 41-11657, 41-11674, 41-11675, 41-11729, 41-11731, 41-11744, 41-11745, 41-11746, 41-11788, 41-23695, 41-23859, 41-23792, 41-23959, 41-24141, 41-24163, 42-107274, 43-30565.
One of the more notable exploits of AA-piloted C-87s was the 31,000-mile trip made by FDR's "One World Ambassador", Wendell Wilkie, aboard C-87 41-11608 *Gulliver*. This involved a 51-day mission to Cairo, Palestine, Baghdad, Teheran, Moscow, and China, and then a return to the United States via a route across the Pacific.
AA later traded in their C-87s for more advanced C-54 Skymasters.
United Airlines was awarded a contract by ATC to fly trans-Pacific routes and to fly intra-theater leave shuttles ferrying armed forces personnel back and forth between the front and leave ports in Australia and New Zealand. C-87s operated by United Airlines included 41-24005, 41-24027, 41-24028, 41-24160, 41-24252, 41-24253, 41-11608, 41-11640, 41-11642, 41-11642, 41-11655, 41-11656, 41-11789, and 41-11861.
During the war, Transcontinental & Western Airlines (T&WA) - later to become Trans World Airlines or TWA - operated Liberators for training and in support of USAAF Ferry Command operations. In late 1942, T&WA's new Intercontinental Division was assigned three C-87s to fly the South Atlantic route between the USA and the Middle East.
The C-87A was a VIP transport version of the basic C-87. The C-87 had been essentially a "no-frills" transport, with little attention being paid to passenger comfort. The C-87A was designed for more passenger comfort, and had only 16 seats. It could be fitted with Pullman-type upholstered seats that could be converted into five berths. Because of the different seating accommodation, the window arrangement was different. The first three C-87As were named Gulliver I, Gulliver II, and Gulliver III. A total of six were built, three for the USAAF and three for the US Navy. C-87A 41-24159 later became the first "Air Force One" for President Franklin Roosevelt, and was renamed *Guess Where II*.
Three C-87A VIP transports were turned over to the Navy under the designation RY-1. Navy BuNos were 67797/67799. Five C-87s were transferred to the US Navy under the designation RY-2. BuNos were 39013/39017.
Five C-87s were converted into AT-22 trainers, which were employed for training flight engineers. Their serial numbers were 42-107266, 43-30549, 43-30561, 42-30574, and 43-30584. Six stations were provided in the fuselage for the instruction of flight engineers in the operation of powerplants. They were intended to train engineers that were going to be flying aboard B-24 and B-32 bombers In 1944, these five planes were redesignated TB-24D.
24 USAAF C-87s were transferred to the RAF under Lend-Lease for use by Transport Command as Liberator C.VII. Their RAF serials were EW611/EW634. Known USAAF serial numbers are 44-39219 and 44-39248/39261, which accounts for only 15 of the 24 C.VIIs. They were used by Nos. 232, 246, and 511 Squadrons starting with mid to late 1944 up until the end of the war. EW611, ex-USAAAF 44-39219, became G-AKAG. The RAF did not keep its Liberator C.VIIs very long, disposing of the last examples in 1946.
The C-87s were not very popular with their crews, who complained about all sorts of hazards, particularly with the fuel system, with the engines, and with the cockpit accessories. The C-87 was notorious for problems with leaking fuel tanks, and midair fires were an ever-present danger. The C-87 also had some dangerous icing properties, which made it a very risky plane to fly over the Hump. There were few tears shed when the Army's C-87s were withdrawn from service and replaced by more reliable Douglas C-54 Skymasters.

 

Gallery

 

Serials of C-87 and C-87A Liberator Express:

41-11608 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
later reserialed 41-39600
41-11639/11642 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11655/11657 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11674/11676 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11704 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11706/11709 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11728/11733 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11742/11747 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11788/11789 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11800 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11837/11838 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-11907/11908 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-23669/23670 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-23694/23696 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-23791/23793 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-23850/23852 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-23859/23862 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-23863 - Consolidated C-87A-CF Liberator Express
41-23903/23905 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-23959 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-24004/24006 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-24027/24029 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-24139/24141 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-24158 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-24159 - Consolidated C-87A-CF Liberator Express
41-24160/24163 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-24172/24173 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
41-24174 - Consolidated C-87A-CF Liberator Express
41-39600 - Consolidated XC-87 Liberator Express
42-107249/107275 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
107266 converted to AT-22
43-30548/30568 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
43-30569/30571 - Consolidated C-87A-CF Liberator Express
all to US Navy as RY-1 67797/67799
43-30572/30627 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
30574 and 30584 converted to AT-22
44-39198/39298 - Consolidated C-87-CF Liberator Express
39198/39202 to US Navy as RY-2 39013/39017
39219, 39248/39261 to RAF as Liberator C.VII
44-52978/52987 - Consolidated C-87 Liberator Express

XB-24
Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 Twin Wasp, 1100 hp.
Prop: 11 ft 7 in Hamilton Standard 3 blade.
Aspect ratio: 11.5-1.
Bomb cap: 8000 lb.
Armament: six 0.3-in mg.

XB-24B
Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41.

B-24C

Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41.

B-24D
Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43.
Gross wt: 27,216 kg (60,000 lb).
Armament:
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in nose turret
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in tail turret
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in dorsal turret
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in ventral ball turret
1 x 12.7mm machine gun in left-waist fuselage position.
1 x 12.7mm machine gun in right-waist fuselage position.
Up to 8,800lbs of internal ordnance.

B-24E

Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65
Prop: Curtiss.

Consolidated B 24 H Liberator
Engine: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R 1830-65 Twin Wasp, 1184 hp
Length: 67.159 ft / 20.47 m
Height: 18.012 ft / 5.49 m
Wingspan: 110.007 ft / 33.53 m
Wing area: 1047.983 sq.ft / 97.36 sq.m
Max take off weight: 71212.7 lb / 32296.0 kg
Weight empty: 36506.0 lb / 16556.0 kg
Max. speed: 252 kts / 467 km/h
Cruising speed: 187 kts / 346 km/h
Service ceiling: 28002 ft / 8535 m
Wing loading: 68.06 lb/sq.ft / 332.0 kg/sq.m
Range: 1825 nm / 3380 km
Crew: 12
Armament: 10x cal.50 MG (12,7mm), 2268kg-5806kg Bomb.

XB-24K
Engines: 4 x R-1830-75, 1,350-hp.

B-24J Liberator
Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65, 1,200 hp
Length: 67.16ft (20.47m)
Width: 110.01ft (33.53m)
Height: 18.01ft (5.49m)
Empty Weight: 36,500lbs (16,556kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight: 65,001lbs (29,484kg)
Maximum Speed: 290mph (467kmh; 252kts)
Maximum Range: 2,001miles (3,220km)
Rate-of-Climb: 800ft/min (244m/min)
Service Ceiling: 28,002ft (8,535m; 5.3miles)
Accommodation: 7 to 10

GR.Mk.VI
Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 or -65, 1200 hp.
Bomb load: 12,800 lb.
Range: 900-2290 mile.

Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer
Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-94 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial, 1350 hp
Length: 74 ft 7 in (22.73m)
Wingspan: 110 ft 0 in (33.53m)
Wing area: 97.36 sq.m / 1047.97 sq ft
Wing load: 62.12 lb/sq.ft / 303.0 kg/sq.m
Height: 30 ft 1 in (9.17m)
Empty weight: 17018 kg / 37518 lb
Maximum Take-Off Weight: 65,003lbs (29,485kg)
Maximum Speed: 287mph (462kmh; 249kts)
Cruise speed: 225 km/h / 140 mph
Maximum Range: 2,796miles (4,500km)
Rate-of-Climb: 0ft/min (0m/min)
Service Ceiling: 20,669ft (6,300m)
Armament:
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in forward dorsal turret
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in rearward dorsal turret
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in nose turret
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in tail turret
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in left waist blister position
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in right waist blister position
Up to 12,800lbs of internal stores.
Accommodation: 11

Consolidated C-87 Liberator Express
Engines: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 radial, 1200 hp at 2700 rpm for takeoff.
Maximum speed 300 mph at 25,000 feet.
Climb to 20,000 ft: 60 minutes.
Service ceiling 28,000 feet at 56,000 pound takeoff weight.
Normal range at 60% power: 1400 miles at 215 mph at 10,000 feet.
Maximum range: 3300 miles at 188 mph at 10,000 feet.
Empty weight: 30,645 lb
Normal loaded weight: 56,000 lb
Wingspan 110 feet 0 inches
Length 66 feet 4 inches
Height 17 feet 11 inches
Wing area 1048 square feet.
Fuel: 2910 US gallons.
Accommodation: Crew four (pilot, copilot, navigator, radio operator).
Passengers capacity: Up to 25
Range 10,000 lb load: 1000 miles
Trans-oceanic cargo capacity: 6000 lb

 

con-b24-ld

B-24

 

cons-pb4y2-ld

PB4Y-2 Privateer

 

 


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