|Consolidated B-24 Liberator - USA|
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|Peak production of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator had reached one airplane per hour and 650 per month in 1944 at the Ford constructed Willow Run manufacturing plant in Michigan.|
With over 18,000 aircraft built, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator was produced in even greater numbers than the
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The Liberator gained a distinguished war record with its operations in the European, Pacific, African and Middle Eastern theaters. Although its flying characteristics were not as refined as the B-17, its main virtue was its long operating range. It was used also for other duties including maritime patrol, antisubmarine work, reconnaissance, tanker, cargo and personnel transport. Winston Churchill also used one as his personal transport aircraft.
The aircraft was originally designed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, and the prototype first flew on December 29, 1939. Meanwhile, orders for production aircraft had also been received from Great Britain and France, who had tried desperately to build up and modernize their air forces for the war which had been inevitable. However, the Liberator was not available to France by the time of its capitulation, and French-ordered aircraft were diverted to Britain.
Among the first Liberators to go into British service were six used as transatlantic airliners with BOAC, while others went to Coastal Command as patrol aircraft. As production in the States continued to expand, taking in other manufacturers to help build the type, versions appeared with varying armament and other differences. Liberators also found their way into the United States Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the armed forces of other countries. In Europe, Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force concentrated mainly on night bombing, while the United States Army Air Force operated mainly 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 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 first major external change of the B-24 lines appeared on the twenty-sixth B-24G, when a new nose was designed to include a power turret containing two .50-cal. guns for frontal protection. This most effective forward arrangement increased the length to 67 feet 2 inches. The Sperry ball turret became standard equipment on this and following models.
|The B-24J Liberator was the variation produced in the largest quantity.|
The B-24J Liberator was the variation produced in the largest quantity; a total of 6,678 being constructed. It was so similar to the G and H models that the latter were modified to become B-24Js by changing the autopilot and bombsight. Armed with twin .50-cal. Brownings in the nose, upper, lower ball, waist, and tail turrets, a total of 5,200 rounds of ammunition were carried. The top speed of 290 mph was provided by four
Pratt & Whitney supercharged R-1830-65's
with 1,200 hp each. Cruise was 215 mph and landing speed was 95 mph with its
Fowler flaps. Rate of climb was 1,025 feet per minute, and service ceiling was 28,000 feet. Empty, the B-24J weighed 36,500 pounds and grossed out at 56,000 pounds. Maximum range extended 3,700 miles. The Wing span was 110 feet; wing area, 1,048 square feet; length, 67 feet 2 inches;
height, 18 feet. Fuel capacity was 3,614 gallons.
The 1,667 B-24Ls and 2,593 B-24M models varied only slightly in armament fixtures from their predecessors. 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.
|A B-24 Liberator with its aft section in flames, continues to roar ahead after it was hit by antiaircraft fire over Quakenbruck, Germany. A few moments later the whole plane exploded.||A damaged bomber of the Fifteenth Air Force falls away from its companion.|
During 1943 the Allies increased their air attacks on key points in Hitler's Fortress Europe. In July British bombers turned Hamburg into an inferno. Dropping strips of tin foil to confuse the German radar system, the RAF dumped tons of incendiary and high-explosive bombs on the city. When the ten days of sustained raids were over, 70,000 people were dead, and Hamburg as a city had almost ceased to exist.
The Luftwaffe, however, was still able to inflict punishing losses on bombers that attacked strategic targets farther inland, beyond the range of escorting fighters. Almost one-third of the B-24s that made a low level raid on the oil refineries of Ploesti, Rumania in August were shot down. Sixty planes and their crews were lost on August 17 in raids against Schweinfurt and Regensburg, and in October, 148 bombers were lost in six days. The Combined Bomber Offensive was damaging Germany, but the cost was high.
Liberator 11 (LB-30). Had no B-24 counterpart (LT3-30 designation signifies Liberator built to
British specifications). Four Pratt & Whitney
R-1830-S3C4G engines with two speed
superchargers and driving Curtiss Electric full-feathering propellers. Armed with eleven .303 in.
guns, eight in two Boulton Paul power turrets, one dorsal and one tail, one in the nose and two in
XB-24B. The first B-24 to be fitted with turbo-supercharged engines, self-sealing tanks, armor, and other modern refinements.
B-24C. Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41 engines with exhaust-driven turbo-superchargers. Armament augmented to include two power-driven turrets, one dorsal and one tail, each fitted with two .50-cal. guns. In addition, there was one .50-cal. nose gun and two similar guns in waist positions.
B-24D (PB4Y-l and Liberator B.III and G.R.V.). Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 engines. Armament further increased by the addition of two further nose guns and one tunnel gun, making a total of ten .50-cal. guns. Fuel capacity increased by the addition of auxiliary self-sealing fuel cells in the outer wings and there was provision for long-range tanks in the bomb-bay. The first model to be equipped to carry two 4,000 lb. bombs on external racks, one under each inner wing. The Liberator G.R.V. was used as a long-range general reconnaissance type by RAF Coastal Command. Fuel capacity was increased at the expense of amour and tank protection. Armament consisted of one .303-in. or .50-cal. gun in the nose, two .50-cal. guns in the upper turret, four .303 -in. or two .50-cal. guns in waist positions and four .303-in. guns in a Boulton Paul tail turret. Bombs or depth charges 5,400 lbs.
B-24E (Liberator IV). Similar to B-24D except for minor equipment details. Built by Consolidated (Forth Worth), Ford (Willow Run) and Douglas (Tulsa).
B-24F. An experimental version of the B-24E fitted with exhaust-heated surface anti-icing equipment on wings and tail surfaces.
B-24G, B-24H and B-24J (PB4Y-l and Liberator B.VI and G.R.VI). Similar except for details of equipment and minor differences associated with different manufacturing methods. B-24J built by North American (Dallas). B-24H built by Consolidated (Forth Worth), Ford (Willow Run) andDouglas (Tulsa). B-24J built by Consolidated (San Diego and Fort Worth), Ford, Douglas and North American (Dallas). Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 or 65 engines. Armament further improved to include four two-gun turrets, in nose and tail and above and below the fuselage (details below). Later models of the B-24J were fitted with exhaust-heated anti-icing equipment. The Liberator G.R.VI was used as a long-range general reconnaissance type by RAF Coastal Command. Armament consisted of six .50-cal. guns, two each in nose and dorsal turrets and in waist positions, and four .303-in. guns in a Boulton Paul tail turret. Bombs or depth charges 4,500 lbs. (2,045 kg.).
XB-24K. The first Liberator to be fitted with a single fin and rudder. An experimental model only.
B-24L. Similar to the B-24J but fitted with a new tail turret with two manually-operated .50-cal. guns. The two guns had a wider field of fire and the new turret, which was designed by the Consolidated Vultee Modification Center at Tucson permitted a saving of 200 lbs. (91 kg.) in weight.
B-24M. Same as the B-24L except fitted with a new Motor Products two-gun power-operated tail turret. A B-24M was the 6,725th and last Liberator built by Consolidated Vultee at San Diego.
B-24N. The first production single-tail Liberator. Fitted with new nose and tail gun mountings. Only a few were built before the Liberator was withdrawn from production on May 31,1945.
CB-24. Numbers of B-24 bombers withdrawn from operational flying in the European Theater of Operations were stripped of all armament and adapted to various duties, including utility transport, etc. Painted in distinctive colors and patterns, they were also used as Group Identity Aircraft to facilitate the assembly of large numbers of bombers into their battle formations through and above overcast weather. All these carried the designation CB-24.
TB-24 (formerly AT-22). A conversion of the B-24D for specialized advanced training duties. All bombing equipment and armament removed and six stations provided in the fuselage for the instruction of air engineers in powerplant operation, essentially for such aircraft as the Boeing B-29 and the Consolidated Vultee B-32, which are the first large combat aircraft in the USAAF to have separate completely equipped engineer's stations.
C-109. A conversion of the B-24 into a fuel-carrying aircraft. The first version, modified by the USAAF had metal tanks in the nose, above the bomb-bay and in the bomb-bay holding a total of 2,900 US gallons. Standard fuel transfer system for loading and unloading through single hose union in side of fuselage. Inert gas injected into tanks as fuel pumped out to eliminate danger of explosion. Developed for transporting fuel from India to China to supply the needs of the B-29s operating therefrom. Later version modified by the Glenn L. Martin Company, fitted with collapsible Mareng fuel cells.
|Consolidated B-24J Liberator|
|Wing span:||110 ft 0 in (33.53 m)|
|Length:||67 ft 2 in (20.47 m)|
|Height:||18 ft 0 in (5.49 m)|
|Empty:||37,000 lb. (16,798 kg)|
|Operational:||65,000 lb (29,510 kg)|
|Maximum Speed:||290 mph (467 km/h)|
|Service Ceiling:||28,000 ft. (8,540 m)|
|Range:||2,200 miles (3,540 km)|
|Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 or 65 1,200 hp 14 cylinder radial engines.|
|Six .50-calibre guns, two each in nose and dorsal turrets and in waist positions, and four .303-in. guns in a Boulton Paul tail turret. Internal bomb load of 8,000 lbs. (3,632 kg) with optional external bomb racks.|