Aviation Models
Consolidated B-24 Liberator Home Page Aircraft Engines Airmen Videos
Articles Theory Page Early Years Photo Gallery Aviation Links

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was designed with a high aspect-ratio Davis Wing. This increased fuel efficiency and gave it a longer range than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

    The Consolidated Aircraft Company produced more than 18,400 B-24 Liberators, making it the most produced American wartime aircraft. It gained a distinguished war record with operations in the European, Pacific, African and Middle Eastern theaters. Although its flying characteristics were not as refined as the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, it was a more modern design and featured:

Additional Notes: Perseverance and a Prayer

B-24 Variations

A longer range.
A higher top speed.
A heavier bomb load.
Tricycle landing gear.
A quantum leap in wing design.
    In 1938, the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) sent a request to the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation to become a second source for Boeing B-17s. To honor the request, President Rueben Fleet of Consolidated sent two aides, I. M. Laddon and C. A. Van Dusen to the Boeing factory in Seattle, Washington. After the visit, Rueben Fleet decided that he did not want to produce a design that was already four years old. He wanted to build something more modern and it was about the same time, the USAAC had issued Type Specification 212 for a new bomber with the following requirements:
300 mph airspeed.
3,000 mile range.
35,000 foot ceiling.
    Instead of building Boeing B17s, Reuben Fleet decided that they would build an entirely new aircraft to meet the new specifications, resulting in the Model 32. The wing of the Model 32 would be virtually identical to the high aspect-ratio Davis wing that had been successfully used on the Model 31 flying boat.1

    The Model 32 had a wingspan six feet greater than the B-17, but the wing area was 25% less. The high aspect-ratio wing reduced drag and provided greater fuel efficiency. A contract was awarded in March 1939 and was assigned the military designation XB-24. There was a requirement that the airplane would be ready before the end of the year and Consolidated just met the deadline when the first prototype made its inaugural flight on December 29, 1939. The first flight lasted seventeen minutes.2

    The Davis wing demonstrated such remarkable performance on the Model 31 flying boat and early flights of the XB-24 that orders were coming in even before production had started. The USAAC ordered seven YB-24s and twenty B-24As. The first production aircraft were export versions with deliveries beginning in December 1940. The export version was designated as the LB-30 with LB signifying Land Bomber. 120 LB-30s were ordered for France and 164 were ordered by the British.3 Orders for France were not available before its capitulation and the French aircraft were diverted to Britain.4

    The top airspeed of the XB-24 was 273 mph and failed to meet the USAAC requirement of 300 mph, but range was the primary concern of the Consolidated team. The engine on the prototype was the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 Twin Wasp with a mechanical supercharger. When the engines were upgraded on the XB-24B, to the R-1830-41 with turbo-superchargers, airspeed increased to 310 mph.5

    The turbo-supercharger was placed on the lower surface of the engine nacelle and the oil cooler and supercharger ducting were placed on either side of the engine. Looking forward, the right side of the cowl contained the supercharger, generator and oil cooler ducts. The left side contained the intercooler ducts.6 The oval shaped engines would become one of the Liberator's characteristic features.


The engine right-side showing the supercharger, generator and oil cooler ducts.

    The first production Liberators were six LB-30s (ex USAAC YB-24s) and lacked self-sealing fuel tanks. They were used as transatlantic Return Ferry Service airliners with BOAC. This was followed by twenty RAF Liberator Is for Coastal Command as patrol aircraft. The USAAC delayed their order to take delivery on more advanced models.

    Although twenty were ordered, only nine B-24As were built as well as nine B-24Cs. The B-24D was the first main production model with 2,728 aircraft produced. The "D", "E" and "G" were essentially the same aircraft, totaling 3,958 aircraft.7

    Although some sources credit the North America, Dallas built B-24G-1-NT as having the first nose turret, this distinction actually belongs the first production Ford built B-24H model (c/n 42-7465). The emphasis here is "production" model. Earlier B-24s had nose turrets, but these were installed during field modifications. The nose turret contained two .50 caliber machine guns for frontal protection and increased the B-24 length to 67 feet 2 inches. The Sperry ball turret became standard equipment on the B-24G and following models.

    The B-24J was produced in greater numbers than any other series with 6,678 B-24Js built.

    The 1,667 B-24Ls and 2,593 B-24M models varied only slightly in armament fixtures from their predecessors.

    As production expanded, other manufacturers were requested to participate in production and versions appeared with varying armament and other differences. While the differences may seem slight today, they weren't at the time. Mechanics in the field had to deal with four major variations and four sets of manuals. The B-24 had 1,820 engineering changes or an average 3.6 for every aircraft produced—more than any other WW II aircraft. Construction plants were as follows:

Consolidated - Fort Worth, Texas.
Consolidated - San Diego, California.
Douglas - Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ford - Willow Run, Michigan.
North American - Dallas, Texas.
    By March of 1944, Ford was producing one B-24H every 100 minutes, seven days a week. The supply of aircraft exceeded the USAAF's ability to use them and was becoming a source of embarrassment for the USAAF.8


In March 1944 at the Ford Willow Run plant in Michigan, B-24 peak
production reached one airplane every 100 minutes, seven days a week.

    In Europe, Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force concentrated mainly on night bombing, while the United States Army Air Force operated primarily as a day bombing force. On December 4, 1942, US Liberators of the 9th Air Force attacked Naples, recording their first raid on Italy, followed on July 19, 1943 by the first raid on Rome by 270 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses. The USAAF casualties were among the highest for bombing forces. This was well illustrated on August 17, 1943 when 59 bombers were shot down while attacking German ball-bearing factories, followed by 60 losses in a similar raid in October. In March 1944, a large force of US Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses attacked Berlin in daylight, the first of several such raids.

    Bomber losses decreased with the perfection of formation flying and the support of long-range escort fighters. Incredibly, Liberators are recorded as having dropped over 630,000 tons of bombs, while several thousand enemy aircraft fell to their guns. Some were converted to carry the first US air-to-surface, radar-guided missile, the Bat, and in April 1945 a Bat sank a Japanese naval destroyer.


The B-24J model was produced in the largest quantity.

    Besides the USAAF and RAF, Liberators also found their way into the United States Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the armed forces of other countries. All USN Liberators were designated PB4Y-1s regardless of their USAAF series designation.

    Several B-24s were used as transports under the Air Force designation of C-87 Liberator Express and a few became C-109 fuel tankers. After the war, the Liberator continued to serve with the United States forces, notably as an air rescue and weather reconnaissance aircraft with the Coast Guard in the 1950s.

Specifications:
Consolidated B-24
Liberator
XB-24 B-24C B-24G B-24J
Dimensions:
Wing span: 110 ft 0 in (33.53 m) 110 ft 0 in (33.53 m) 110 ft 0 in (33.53 m) 110 ft 0 in (33.53 m)
Length: 63 ft 9 in (19.43 m) 63 ft 9 in (19.43 m) 67 ft 2 in (20.47 m) 67 ft 2 in (20.47 m)
Height: 18 ft 8 in (5.68 m) 18 ft 8 in (5.68 m) 18 ft 0 in (5.49 m) 18 ft 0 in (5.49 m)
Weights:
Empty: 27,500 lb. (12,473 kg) 32,050 lb. (14,573 kg) 38,000 lb. (17,236 kg) 38,000 lb. (17,236 kg)
Combat: 38,360 lb (17,399 kg) 41,000 lb (18,597 kg) 56,000 lb (25,401 kg) 56,000 lb (25,401 kg)
Maximum: 46,100 lb (20,910 kg) 56,000 lb (25,401 kg) 71,200 lb (32,295 kg) 71,200 lb (32,295 kg)
Performance:
Maximum Speed: 273 mph (439 km/h)
@ 15,000 ft (4,572 m)
313 mph (503 km/h)
@ 25,000 ft (7,620 m)
290 mph (467 km/h)
@ 25,000 ft (7,620 m)
290 mph (467 km/h)
@ 25,000 ft (7,620 m)
Service Ceiling: 31,500 ft. (9,601 m) 34,000 ft. (10,363 m) 28,000 ft. (8,534 m) 28,000 ft. (8,534 m)
Combat Range: 2,850 miles (4,586 km)
w/2,500 lb. (1,133 kg)
2,100 miles (3,379 km)
w/5,000 lb. (2,267 kg)
1,700 miles (2,735 km)
w/5,000 lb. (2,267 kg)
1,700 miles (2,735 km)
w/5,000 lb. (2,267 kg)
Ferry Range: 4,700 miles (7,563 km) 3,560 miles (5,729 km) 3,300 miles (5,310 km) 3,300 miles (5,310 km)
Powerplant: Four 1,200 hp Pratt &
Whitney R-1830-33
.
Four 1,200 hp Pratt &
Whitney R-1830-41
.
Four 1,200 hp Pratt &
Whitney R-1830-65
.
Four 1,200 hp Pratt &
Whitney R-1830-65
.
Armament: Six .30-caliber guns,
one in nose, dorsal,
tail hatch and each
waist position.
Internal bomb load of 8,800 lbs. (3,991 kg).
Six .30-caliber guns,
one in nose, dorsal,
tail hatch and each
waist position.
Internal bomb load of 8,800 lbs. (3,991 kg).
Ten .50-caliber guns,
two each in nose & dorsal
turret and waist positions.
Sperry ball turret and
MPC A-6B tail turret.
Total bomb load
12,800 lbs. (5,805 kg) with optional external bomb racks.
Ten .50-caliber guns,
two each in nose & dorsal
turret and waist positions.
Sperry ball turret and
MPC A-6B tail turret.
Internal bomb load
8,000 lbs. (3,632 kg).

Endnotes:

1. William Wagner. Reuben Fleet and the Story of Consolidated Aircraft. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, Inc., 1976. 208.
2. Allan G. Blue. The B-24 Liberator, A Pictorial History. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975. 12-15.
3. William Green. Famous Bombers of the Second World War. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975. 166.
4. David Mondey. The Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II. New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1982. 50.
5. Lloyd S. Jones. U.S. Bombers Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, 1974. 71.
6. Allan G. Blue. 32.
7. Ibid. 48.
8. Ibid. 51.

Return To Aircraft Index.

©Larry Dwyer. The Aviation History Online Museum. All rights reserved.
Created October 6, 1998. Updated October 13, 2013.