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Curtiss CW-20 / C-46 Commando / C-55 / C-113 / R5C




The 1937 design specifications called for the Commando to feature a pressurized cabin for up to 36 combat-ready troops, longer range than anything available to the USAAF and an above average cruising speed. Design headed by George Page the CW-20 first appeared in prototype form on 26 March of 1940 as the twin-rudder CW-20T.


Curtiss-Wright CW-20 Mock-up of twin-tail prototype at 1939 NYC World's Fair


Because the US Army was impressed with its possibilities, authorisation was obtained for the purchase of a large number as cargo transports. In the meantime the prototype was bought, modified and given the Army designation C-55. It was later re-converted for civil use and sold to the British government.
The 1941 C-55 (Model CW-20A) was a single-tail prototype Curtiss-Wright CW-20T for evaluation as a USAAF transport, rejected in favour of the C-46. A projected name of Skytruck was not officially assigned. Costing $363,600, the one built 41-21041, later went as Lend-Lease to England and BOAC as G-AGDI.
Curtiss C-55 (41-21041)
The CW-20T prototype later evolved into the CW-20A that featured a revised tail in the form of the more recognizable single rudder assembly. Later development focused in on the requirements as put forth by the United States Army Air Corps which put the CW-20A under trials and consequently ordered a production version of the model designated CW-20B. The main compartment of the C-46 could accommodate (in addition to general cargo) 40 fully equipped troops, up to 33 stretchers, five Wright R-3350 engines or their equivalent weight of other goods.
Curtiss C-46A 41-5159
The 1942 Army production model of the CW-20B, designated C-46A, was a redesign not only to suit it to the duties of a military cargo or task-force aircraft but to allow easy large-scale production. It was produced in three large manufacturing plants and was put into widespread use by the US Army Air Transport Command, Air Service Command and Troop Carrier Command, and by the US Naval Air Transport Command and Marine Corps. Two were built by Higgins Industries (boat manufacturer), New Orleans LA. Final trial models were provisioned to fit up to 45 combat-ready troops and fitted with two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 radial engines, a large cargo door and folding wall seats. The C-46 entered service with the plain designation of simply C-46 in the Pacific Theatre - and used almost exclusively there up until about March of 1945, to which the Commando would be seen across the European Theatre as well.
The United States Navy utilized a designation of R5C-1 for their own Commando version, transferred from USAAF inventory, with 120 models of the R5C-1 (39492-39611) going to the United States Marine Corps. Ten of these went to the USCG with long-range fuselage fuel tanks used as cargo and personnel haulers until 1950.
Curtiss XC-46B 43-46963
The 1944 C-46D, TC-46D (Model CW-20B-2) troop transport had a revised nose and double loading doors. An unknown number were modified as TC-46D trainers.
Curtiss C-46D with single door 44-77984

The 1944 C-46E (Model CW-20B-3) were C-46A airframes with stepped windshield and single cargo door. Seventeen were built (43-47403/47419).
Curtiss C-46E

Curtiss C-46E Glider tug (43-47404)
In 1944 Curtiss prepared designs and a mock-up of a commercial version of the aircraft for immediate post-war production. Curtiss-Wright hoped to market it as a 36 passenger civil version of the C-46E, with two 2500hp (1860 kW) Wright C18-B2 engines. Although a total of 26 were on order at one time the CW-20E never really had a chance as a new-production post-war airliner.
Curtiss C-46E Post-war civil (N30019)

The 1945 C-46F (Model CW-20B-4) had engine modifications, squared wingtips, and cargo doors on both sides. 234 were built (44-78545/78778).
Curtiss C-46F (44-78774)
To give the C-46s added performance, some C 46Fs were fitted with two Turbomeca Palas turbojets in underwing pods to operate in Brazil (from 1953). Other aircraft were fitted with more powerful engines as 'Super C 46s'.
The 1945 C-46G (Model CW-20B-5) was powered by two 2100hp R-2800-34W and featured a stepped windshield. The one built was originally scheduled as a C-46C (44-78945), and later converted to XC-113.
Built in 1945, the sole C-113 (Model CW-20G) 44-78945 was a C-46G with a four-blade General Electric TG-100 turboprop installed in the right nacelle for tests, retaining its original three-blade Wright R-2800-34W on the left. This proved to be an unmanageable arrangement and the ship was damaged in ground runs and never flew.
Curtiss XC-113 44-78945
Planned modifications for double tailwheels and R-3350-BD engines, the C-46H, XC-46K (Model CW-20E-2) was cancelled by the Armistice, although a few other post-war C-46 mods were labelled as C-46H.
The three 1945 XC-46L (Model CW-20H) conversions were test-beds for 2500hp Wright R-3350-BD Double Cyclones.
In October 1954, Terneo Aircraft Corp. announced a contract to overhaul 87 of' them. The U.S.A.F. still had some of these veteran wartime passenger-freighter in 1955.
In total, US forces accepted 3144, and the C-46 was officially retired from service in 1968, replaced by the C-130 series of transports.




Curtiss C-46A Commando, S/N 42-3649, for sale at Cal-Aero Field, California, post-WWII


Riddle Airlines produced a modification kit in the mid-1950s which added 40mph (64kmh) to cruising speed and 2,204 lb (1,000 kg) to the payload. The improved model was designated C-46R, and Riddle subsequently converted its own fleet of 32 to have 2,100 hp Pratt & Whitney engines.




C-46 Commando / CW-20B / R5C
Engines: 2 x P&W R-2800-43, 2000hp
Wingspan: 108 ft 1 in
Length: 76 ft 4 in
Useful load: 23,600 lb
Max speed: 269 mpg
Cruise speed: 183 mph
Range: 1200 mi
Ceiling: 27,600 ft
Number built: 25 (41-5159/5183)
Capacity: 50 troop
Cost: $341,831
CW-20B / C-46A Commando
Engines: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 Double Wasp, 2,000hp
Length: 76.44ft (23.3m)
Wing span: 78.54ft (23.94m)
Height: 21.75ft (6.63m)
Empty Weight: 30,001lbs (13,608kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight: 55,997lbs (25,400kg)
Maximum Speed: 269mph (433kmh; 234kts)
Maximum Range: 1,199miles (1,930km)
Service Ceiling: 27,559ft (8,400m)
Crew: 4
Number built: 1,491 (41-5184/5204, -12280/12433, -24640/24775, 42-3564/3683, -60942/61091, -96529/96707, -96708/96828, -101036/101235, -107280/107399, 43-43339/43340, -46953/47402, 44-77444, -77446)
Cost: $314,700 (>$354,714), $259,268 (>$271,127) in 1943
CW-20B-1 / XC-46B
Stepped windshield.
Engines: 2 x R-2800-34W, 2100hp
Number built: 1 modified from C-46A (43-46963)
Prototype built as C-46G instead.
CW-20B-2 / C-46D Commando / TC-46D
Engine: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 Double Wasp, 1973 hp, 1495kW
Wingspan: 32.9 m / 107 ft 11 in
Length: 23.3 m / 76 ft 5 in
Height: 6.6 m / 21 ft 8 in
Wing area: 1359.924 sqft / 126.340 sq.m
Max take off weight: 56009.2 lb / 25401.0 kg
Weight empty: 32404.7 lb / 14696.0 kg
Max. speed: 234 kts / 433 km/h
Cruising speed: 159 kts / 295 km/h
Service ceiling: 27592 ft / 8410 m
Wing load: 41.21 lb/sq.ft / 201.0 kg/sq.m
Range: 1043 nm / 1931 km
Range w/max.fuel: 2770 km / 1721 miles
Crew: 3
Payload: 54pax
Cost: $233,377
Number built: 1,410 (44-77295/77443, -77445, -77447/78544)
CW-20B-3 / C-46E
Number built: 17 (43-47403/47419)
CW-20B-4 / C-46F
Cost: $221,550
Number built: 234 (44-78545/78778)
CW-20B-5 / C-46G
Engines: 2 x R-2800-34W, 2100hp
Number built: 1 originally scheduled as C-46C (44-78945), converted to XC-113.
CW-20E-2 / C-46H / XC-46K
Planned modifications for double tailwheels and R-3350-BD engines cancelled by the Armistice, although a few other post-war C-46 mods were labelled as C-46H.
Designation not used.
CW-20H / XC-46L
Engine test-bed
Engines: Wright R-3350-BD Double Cyclone, 2500hp
3 conversions.
CW-20A / CW-20T / C-55
Cost: $363,600
1 built 41-21041 / G-AGDI
CW-20G / C-113
Engines: 1 x General Electric TG-100 turboprop & four-blade prop, 1 x Wright R-2800-34W & three-blade prop.
1 as XC-113 (44-78945)




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