Douglas A-26 / B-26 Invader / JD
Designed to fulfil a USAAF requirement for an attack bomber to replace the B-26 Marauder, the B-25 Mitchell and the A-20 Havoc, the Douglas A-26 Invader first prototype flew on 10 July 1942. Three prototypes had been ordered in differing configurations: the Douglas XA-26 attack bomber with a bomb-aimer's position; the XA-26A heavily-armed night-fighter; and the XA-26B attack aircraft with a 75mm cannon. After flight testing and careful examination of reports from Europe and the Pacific, the A-26B Invader was ordered into production, and deliveries to operational units began in December 1943. By the end of World War Two, production of the Invader had ceased. A total of 2,446 were built.
The A-26B Invader had six 12.7mm machine-guns in the nose, remotely controlled dorsal and ventral turrets each with two 12.7mm guns, and up to 10 more 12.7mm guns in underwing and underfuselage packs. Heavily armoured, and able to carry up to 1814kg of bombs, the A-26Bs two, 1491kW Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines conferred a maximum speed of 375 mph / 571km/h, making the A-26 the fastest US bomber of World War II.
Missions with the 9th Air Force in Europe began in November 1944, and at the same time the type became operational in the Pacific. The A-26C with a bomb-aimer's position and only two guns in the nose entered service in 1945, but saw only limited use before World War II ended. A-26C production totalled 1,091. With little employment ahead of them, so far as anyone could see, one A-26B and one A-26C were converted to XJD-1 configuration, this pair being followed by 150 A-26Cs converted as target tugs for the US Navy with the designation JD-1; some were converted later to launch and control missile test vehicles and drones, under the designation JD-1D. These designations became UB-26J and DB-26J in 1962.
In 1948 the Martin Marauder was finally retired from service and the Invader took over the B-26 designation, it having previously been designat-ed an 'Attack' aircraft as the A-26. Two principal sub types were in operation at this time, B-26B and C. The B-26B had a solid nose containing its main armament of six 0.5in Browning machine-guns and the remotely-controlled dorsal and ventral turrets, each mounting two similar guns. The B-26C had a transparent nose.
Throughout the 1950s, the B-26 operated with the US Air Forces Europe (USAFE) as a light bomber, target tug and tactical reconnaissance aircraft. The build-up of American forces in Europe, which had commenced in 1949 under the leadership of Lt General Curtis E LeMay, proceeded apace in the early 1950s. The B-26B arrived at Laon in France with the 126th Light Bombardment Wing in July 1952; and in December of that year the 7554th Tow Target Flight located to Furstenfeldbruck airbase in Germany. This unit flew the TB-26B variant.
The RB-26s did not get off to an auspicious start. Primarily this was due to a lack of equipment, spares and appropriate facilities. On arrival in Germany only 15 days' supply had been brought over from the US. In addition to this, their all-important night photo missions were held up for some weeks because no one had made the necessary arrangements for a suitable range for the use of flash bomb car-tridges. Eventually arrangements were made with Strategic Air Command to use the ranges at Lakenheath.
Flying for an RB-26 crew for the first few days of their deployment in Europe consisted of familiarisation flights over their new homeland. Even this became restricted when, in May and early June, a refinery strike in the US severely restricted the use of fuel. For the period of the emergency each pilot was only allowed to for 20 hours.
The RB-26s were fitted with the comparatively new 'Hell Roarer' magnesium illuminator system with split vertical camera installation using the A18 magazine. The 'Hell Roarer' was demonstrated to interested parties on November 5 over the Bay of Naples. It turned out to be a veritable firework bonanza. In the cold light of dawn, on November 6 the demonstrating RB-26 was seen to have a badly scorched tail.
The RB-26s suffered particularly from severe icing and were grounded for long periods when the temperatures were very low. In late 1953 the problems with the RB-26 were such that the USAFE prepared to re-equip the 1st and the 30th TRS with the 'state-of-the-art' Martin RB-57A Canberra. As early as December, crews were being checked out on their respective wings' Lockheed T-33s prior to going to Shaw AFB in the USA, home of the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group, a unit also destined to receive the RB-57A.
Significantly, while the 1st and 30th TRS were preparing to re-equip with the RB-57A and relinquish their RB-26s, in March 1954 another squadron was activated at Spangdahlem with the 10th TRW which began to equip with the older aircraft. The 42nd TRS was activated on March 18.
The 42nd was divided into two flights -W and B. W Flight was for weather reconnaissance, and S had the electronic mission. The first RB-26 was assigned to W Flight on June 18 and it was not until December that the first aircraft was assigned to B Flight. By this time the weather flight had received its full complement of aircraft.
The aircraft of B Flight increased in sophistication throughout their service with the squadron until replaced in 1956 with the Douglas RB-66C. The RB-26s of W Flight were replaced by T-33As in 1955.
A special COIN version with very heavy armament and extra power was developed by On Mark Engineering in 1963, a prototype being designated YB-26K and named Counter Invader. Subsequently about 70 B-26s were converted to B-26K standard, 40 later being redesignated A-26A. Some were deployed in Vietnam, and others were supplied to friendly nations under the Military Assistance Program. B-26s were used also for training (TB-26B and TB-26C), transport (CB-26B freighter and VB-26B staff transport), RPV control (DB-26C), night reconnaissance. (FA-26C, from 1948 redesignated RB-26C) and missile guidance research (EB-26C). After the war, many A-26s were converted to executive, survey, photographic and even fire-fighting aircraft. Used also for reconnaissance and target towing, and by Air National Guard. U.S. Navy uses same type as JD-1 for target towing.
Air America's night drop bird, 598, aka The Blue Goose or the Blivit. Parked on the Ramp at Udorn in June of 1967. It had an F111 a Terrain Following Radar (TFR) in the nose. This feature allowed low level, jungle top resupply drops at night along the Ho Chi Minh trail between the Mu Gia Pass to Tchepone. 598 had a drop ramp in the aft section and two supply pallets could be carried/dropped. It had a crew of four. Two pilots, a navigator, and a kicker or Air Freight Specialist as they were officially titled.
In total 1,355 were built. Variation:
On Mark Marketeer / Marksman
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney R-2800.
Top speed: 355 mph.
Douglas A 26 C Invader
Engine : 2 x Pratt&Whitney R 2800-70 Double Wasp, 1973 hp
Length : 51.247 ft / 15.62 m
Height: 18.241 ft / 5.56 m
Wingspan : 70.013 ft / 21.34 m
Wing area : 540.030 sq.ft / 50.170 sq.m
Max take off weight : 35006.6 lb / 15876.0 kg
Weight empty : 22854.8 lb / 10365.0 kg
Max. speed : 324 kts / 600 km/h
Cruising speed : 247 kts / 457 km/h
Service ceiling : 22096 ft / 6735 m
Wing load : 64.78 lb/sq.ft / 316.0 kg/sq.m
Range : 1217 nm / 2253 km
Crew : 3
Armament : 6x cal.50 MG (12,7mm), Bombload 1814kg
Engines: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 or -79 Double Wasp, 1491kW
Max take-off weight: 15876 kg / 35001 lb
Empty weight: 10365 kg / 22851 lb
Wingspan: 21.34 m / 70 ft 0 in
Length: 15.24 m / 50 ft 0 in
Height: 5.64 m / 18 ft 6 in
Wing area: 50.17 sq.m / 540.02 sq ft
Max. speed: 571 km/h / 355 mph
Cruise speed: 457 km/h / 284 mph
Ceiling: 6735 m / 22100 ft
Range: 2253 km / 1400 miles
Armament: 10 x 12.7mm machine-guns, 1814kg of bombs
Engines: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R2800-79. 2,000 h.p.
Wingspan: 70 ft
Length: 50 ft. 8 in.
Loaded weight: 35,000 lb.
Max. speed: 359 m.p.h.
Ceiling: over 28,000 ft.
Max. range: 1,900 Miles.
Armament: 10 x 0.50 in. machine-guns, 6,000 lb. bombs, 14 x 5 in. rockets.