Consolidated B-36 Peacekeeper

Consolidated B-36 Peacekeeper

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Consolidated B-36 Peacekeeper

The Consolidated B-36 Peacekeeper was developed in response to the early German victories in 1939-40, but development was slow, and it ended up being Strategic Air Command's main long range bomber during the 1950s.

The B-36 was developed in response to a USAAF specification of 11 April 1941 for a bomber capable of hitting targets in mainland Europe from bases in the United States, issued when a German invasion of the United Kingdom was still a real possibility. The first version of the specifications called for an aircraft with a top speed of 450mph, a cruising speed of 275mph, a range of 12,000 miles and a ceiling of 45,000ft. This was soon scaled down to a range of 10,000 miles, cruising speed of 240-300mph and ceiling of 40,000ft, but that was still more than enough to reach Germany from the US East Coast and return. The new aircraft was to have a maximum payload of 72,000lb or 10,000lb for the trip to Europe.

Consolidated submitted its design on 3 May 1941, alongside Boeing, Douglas and Northrop. On 15 November Consolidated was given a contract to build two prototypes of the XB-36, to be delivered in May and November 1944. Work began at San Diego, but soon moved to Forth Worth because the San Diego plant was already busy with various flying boats and the B-24 Liberator.

Consolidated's design was massive. It had slightly swept back wings with a span of 230ft and a thickness of 6ft at the root to allow for access to the engines from within the wings. The original design used six Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major air cooled radial engines, driving pusher propellers (the pusher configuration was adopted in order to improve air flow over the wings, which was disrupted by tractor propellers). The Wasp Major was created by combining two fourteen cylinder Twin Wasp engines. The fuselage was 162ft long, and included an 80ft long pressurized tunnel to allow the crew to move from the front to the rear on a wheeled trolley. This connected the pressurized cabin in the nose to a rear compartment containing bunks and the rear gunners positions. The first design, the Model 35, had twin fins and rudders, similar to the much smaller Consolidated B-24 Liberator. This was later replaced with a large single tail, which gave the aircraft its height of almost 47ft. The defensive armament changed several times, but eventually a layout with eight remotely controlled turrets, each with two 20mm cannon, was adopted. The 230ft long wings had a crawl-way inside to allow the flight engineer to reach the engines while the aircraft was in flight.

In June 1943 an order was placed for 100 aircraft, with the prototype to be ready by September 1944. At this point the new target was Japan - Britain was clearly safe from invasion, with the Germans bogged down in Russia and a powerful US army building up for the invasion of mainland Europe, but in China the Japanese advance threatened to capture the areas that the USAAF intended to use as B-29 bases for attacks on the Japanese Home Islands.

Work on the B-36 was slower than hoped. The engines caused problems, and as the Allies advanced across the Pacific the need for bases in China faded and the B-29 had the range required to attack Japan from the newly captured island bases. The B-36 survived because it had the potential to carry the very heavy atomic bombs on long range raids.

The prototype XB-36 finally rolled out at Fort Worth on 8 September 1945, one year after it was meant to have made its maiden flight, and didn't take to the air until 8 August 1946. By this time it had a new single vertical tail, and at the time was the largest and heaviest land based aircraft ever to have flown. Only three runways in the United States could actually take its weight, which required 22 inches of concrete (this improved after new four wheel bogies replaced the single wheels, reducing the requirement to 13.5in).

The first production aircraft made its maiden flight on 27 August 1947, but only to go to Wright Field to destruction testing. The second prototype made its maiden flight on 4 December 1947. It had a new raised cockpit canopy to improve visibility. It was built with the original single wheeled undercarriage, but later got the four wheel bogies.

The last of 383 B-36s was delivered on 14 August 1954. It was produced in a number of variants. The B-36A was an unarmed trainer. The B-36B was the first bomber version. The B-36D saw the addition of four turbojets mounted outboard of the piston engines, improving the aircraft's performance. The RB-36E was a reconnaissance version of the B-36D. The B-36E was the B-36A and B-36B when converted to B-36D standard. The B-36F was similar to the B-36B but with more powerful engines. The B-36H had an improved flight deck. The B-36J had extra fuel and stronger landing gear.

The B-36 entered service with the 7th Bomb Group (Heavy) in June 1948. The 7th BG was joined by the 11th BG (H) later in the year. By this point the B-36 was already almost obsolete. Tests in 1949-50 showed that the Navy's F9F Panther and F2H Banshee could both intercept the B-36, which was so large that it appeared on the limited airborne radar of the period, too slow to avoid the fighters, and only defended by cannon, making it vulnerable to missile attacks, which would come from well outside gun range. The jet boosted versions of the B-36 were faster, but by the time they appeared so were fighters.

The B-36 was the main part of Strategic Air Command's deterrent force until 1958, when it began to be replaced by the B-52. At its peak the B-36 equipped ten bomber wings, which had 209 B-37s and 133 RB-36s. The units involved were the 5th Bomber Wing (Travis, California), 6th (Walker, New Mexico), 7th and 11th (Carswell, Texas), 28th (North Dakota), 42nd (Loring, Maine), 72nd (Ramey, Puerto Rico), 92nd and 99th (Fairchild, Washington) and 95th (Biggs, Texas). The aircraft's heyday was short - in 1955 it began to be replaced by the B-52, and the last was withdrawn from front line service on 12 February 1959.

The bomber versions saw no combat service, but the reconnaissance aircraft were used for flights close to Soviet territory, and may well have crossed Soviet air space on occasions.

The B-36 was the largest bomber ever to see service with the USAF. It dwarfed the wartime B-29, with a maximum payload four times larger, the ability to carry 10,000lb of bombs twice as far as the B-29's maximum range and was90ft wider, 60ft longer and 19ft taller.

The B-36 set a number of records. On 29 January 1949 one carried two dummy 42,000lb Grand Slam bombs, setting a bomb load record. On 7-8 December 1948 one made a round-trip to Hawaii from the US west coast in 35.5 hours. In March 1949 a B-36 set a long distance record of 9,600 miles in 43hr 37min.


The B-36A was the first production version, and was an unarmed training aircraft. The first made its maiden flight on 28 August 1947, but was then tested to destruction. Twenty two were built in total, of which nineteen went to the 7th Bomb Group (Heavy) at Carswell AFB, starting in June 1948.


The first armed version was the B-36B, of which 62 were built. These were powered by six 3,500hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360-41 engines, and had a gross weight of 328,000lb. They were armed with six retractable turrets armed with two 20mm cannon and two more cannon in the nose. The first made its maiden flight on 8 July 1948.


By the time the B-36B entered service its weight had increased faster than its engine power, and it was being outperformed by less expensive aircraft. Convair's first answer was to use a 4,300hp variable discharge turbine version of the R-4360. This used the exhaust gases from the engine to pass through a turbo supercharger, before emerging as thrust, potentially producing another 800hp per engine. However this would have required a change to a tractor layout, as the VDT wasn't compatible with pusher propellers. Convair suggested converting 34 from the original 100 aircraft to the new layout, and reducing the overall order by five to pay for it, but the VDT engine failed.


The speed problem was eventually fixed by installed four turbojet engines in pods carried below the wing and outside the outer piston engines, producing the 'six turning and four burning' layout. The prototype of this layout made its maiden flight on 26 March 1949, using Allison J35-A-19 turbojets. Production aircraft used a more powerful 5,200lb thrust General Electric J47-GE-19 engine, and the first of these made its maiden flight on 11 July 1949.

The extra engines allowed the maximum take-off range to rise to 358,000lb and the payload to 84,000lb. The crew almost doubled, to 15, to allow a spare crew to be carried. The new design could reach 406mph at 36,000ft. twenty six B-36Ds were built from new and another 59 converted from B-36Bs, almost all of the original production run.


The RB-36D was a reconnaissance version of the R-36D. These aircraft carried a crew of twenty two, and had fourteen cameras in the bomb bay, along with extra fuel tanks to bring the endurance up to 50 hours. Deliveries started from 3 June 1950 and a total of 24 were completed - 17 from new and 7 by converting B-36Bs.
Recon version of the -36D


The RB-36E was the designation given to twenty-one B-36As (all but one of the entire production run) and the single YB-37 after they were converted to the RB-36D standard, with the same camera equipment, and turbojets added to their original piston engines.


The B-36F was similar to the B-36D, but with more powerful 3,800hp R-4360-53 engines. The first one made its maiden flight on 18 November 1950. A total of 58 were produced - 34 as bombers and 24 as the RB-36F reconnaissance version. All had improved ECM equipment.


Twenty four of the B-36Fs were completed as reconnaissance aircraft, with similar cameras to the RB-36D.


The GRB-36F was the designation given to aircraft converted to carry a small escort fighter in its bomb bay as part of the FICON programme (Fighter-Conveyer). One aircraft was converted in 1951-52, and tested with a Republic F-84. The fighter was attached to trapeze equipment, and could be launched and retrieved in mid air. The first retrieval was carried out on 23 April 1952 and the first composite flight, with the fighter in place from the start, on 14 May. In May 1953 another ten were ordered. They were to carry a RF-84K on a H-shaped cradle in the bomb bay. By now the idea had changed from providing fighter defence to improving the range of reconnaissance. Trials were carried out at Fairchild AFB but the scheme was abandoned after a year. One GRB-36F was also used to test out the TomTom concept, in which a pair of RF-84Fs were towed into a combat zone on hooks carried on the tips of the bomber's wings. This proved to be rather dangerous, and was soon abandoned.

B-36G/ YB-60

The designation B-36G was given to a design for a version of the aircraft with wept wings and turbojet engines only. This was eventually developed as the YB-60.


The B-36H had an improved cockpit and other internal changes. The first made its maiden flight on 5 April 1952. A total of 156 were built, of which 83 were delivered as B-36H bombers and 73 as RB-36H reconnaissance aircraft. One of the B-36Hs was later converted into the NB-36H, which carried a nuclear reactor and was used for tests of radiation shielding and on the effects of radiation on equipment and airframes. The NB-36H made its maiden flight on 17 September 1955.


The B-36J was the final production version. It carried an extra 2,770 gallons of fuel in the outer wings and had stronger landing gear. It could operate at a gross weight of 410,000lb. Thirty three were built between September 1943 and August 1954. The last fourteen had all but the tail guns removed.


One example of a transport version was completed as the massive XC-99


The X-9 was the designation for a nuclear powered version of the aircraft.

Piston Engines: Six Pratt & Whitney R-4360-53 radials
Power: 3,800hp each
Turbo jet engines: General Electric J47-GE-19
Power: 5,200lb thrust each
Crew: 16
Span: 230ft 0in
Length: 162ft 1in
Height: 46ft 8in
Empty Weight: 171,035lb
Max take-off weight: 410,000lb
Maximum Speed: 411mph at 36,400ft
Cruising Speed: 391mph
Ceiling: 39,900ft
Range: 6,800 miles with 10,000lb bombload
Guns: six retractable remote controlled fuselage turrets each with two 20mm cannon, two 20mm cannon in nose and two in tail
Bomb load: 86,000lb absolute maximum, 72,000lb normally

Dayton, Ohio USA Part I — National Museum of the United States Air Force, first half

Dayton Ohio in the USA was the home of the Wright brothers and their bicycle business. As we all know, the Wrights designed and produced the first powered airplane (a note: for a short discussion a New Zealander who possibly may have accomplished this first, as well as other innovations of the Wrights, please see “About this blog”). The US Air Force has its main aviation museum there, next to Wright-Patterson Air Base — the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It can hardly be easier to get there as one can fly to Dayton International Airport and rent a car for a 20 minute drive to the facility. Parts I and II will be about the National Museum of the US Air Force and Part III will deal with the neighboring Wright brother sites.

Lockheed F-104 Starfighter outside of the National Museum of the USAF — photo by Joe May

Dayton Ohio in the USA was the home of the Wright brothers and their bicycle business. As we all know, the Wrights designed and produced the first powered airplane (a note: for a short discussion a New Zealander who possibly may have accomplished this first, as well as other innovations of the Wrights, please see “About this blog”). The US Air Force has its main aviation museum there, next to Wright-Patterson Air Base — the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It can hardly be easier to get there as one can fly to Dayton International Airport (formerly named James M. Cox Dayton International Airport) and rent a car for a 20 minute drive to the facility.

This museum is immense — consisting of six hangar-like buildings in three pairs as well as two hangars on the air base. Entry to the museum is free and there is a café as well as plenty of room to walk around most of the aircraft. Additionally, there is a restoration hangar and a display hangar for the experimental aircraft and presidential aircraft on the air base — these require previous arrangements to see (easily made over their web site) and are visited on a specific schedule (visitors are taken by bus and escorted by informative volunteer tour guides).

Panorama of one of the hangars of the National Museum of the USAF — photo by Joe May

As is often practiced, displays are grouped by eras, and are wonderfully done in the early aviation through WW II eras as there are many dioramas. Later eras have aircraft but not the dioramas, however, this does not detract from the experience. The aircraft and additional exhibits are plentiful to the extreme and all in excellent or even better condition.

Martin B-10 — photo by Joe May

Martin B-26G Marauder — photo by Joe May

Not often seen airplanes are present. Some of these are: the Consolidated B-36 Peacekeeper, Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet, Martin MB-2, Martin B-10, Junkers Ju-88, Macchi MC.200 Saetta (Lightning), North America F-82 Twin Mustang, Northrop YC-125 Raider, Convair B-58 Hustler, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 and Panavia Tornado GR-1 — just to name several of the dozens upon dozens of displays.

Northrop YC-125 Raider — photo by Joe May

Macchi MC.200 Saetta (Lightning) — photo by Joe May

Historic aircraft include the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bockscar which delivered the second, and last, atomic bomb used in war time. Additionally present are: a propeller and engine from the Consolidated B‑24 Liberator Lady be Good (the remaining wreckage is stored on a military base in Tobruk, Libya), various nuclear weapons (inert, naturally), a Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low helicopter used in the Son Tay raid (as a Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly, prior to the MH modifications that were part of its 38 years of service) during the Vietnam War and the Boeing NKC-135A Airborne Laser Lab — again, to name several of the dozens upon dozens of displays.

Propeller and engine from the Lady Be Good — photo by Joe May

Additional exhibits include a cut-away Junker Jumo 004 turbojet (the engine type of the Messerschmitt Me-262 Scwalbe and Arado 234 Blitz), an escape capsule from a Convair B-58 Hustler (the ejecting crew man would be in an enclosure), a “Boston Camera” (equipped within a Consolidate RB-36 Peacekeeper and the largest aerial camera to be built) as well as much more.

Touring this museum is best done by taking one’s time as there is such a variety and it is all around as well as above. My usual strategy in museums is to go through them twice — first with one lens and then the second lens. This worked well for me as I noticed much of what I had missed on the first walk around. Many volunteers are there to assist and they are easy to spot with their red blazer jackets. I spoke with three of them at various times and enjoyed good conversations with each of them.

During my wanderings, with my senses at the point of being overloaded I spotted a photographic accessory that would be oh so convenient to have for this type of photography. There it was, a red blazered docent escorting a photographer who was using a battery powered cart that could lift up a one man platform as much as 15 feet (4.5m), or a bit more!

A note: there is a complete aerospace gallery located in this facility but that is beyond the scope of my acumen to review.

It&rsquos the world&rsquos biggest bomber!

The new B-36: Photographed during its third test flight out of Fort Worth, Texas

You&rsquore looking at the gigantic new B-36 in flight &mdash the biggest land-based bomber in the world!

Designed and built by Consolidated Vultee and the US Army Air Forces, the B-36 dwarfs any other bomber now in existence. With its 6 &ldquopusher-type&rdquo Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major engines of 3000 horsepower each, the B-36 is designed to carry 10,000 pounds of bombs a distance of 10,000 miles.

If this country should ever be attacked by an aggressor nation, this mammoth plane, operating from bases available to the United States, could drop an atomic bomb on any city in the world.

In the mighty B-36 America can seek and find assurance that the US Army Air Forces are constantly striving to maintain this nation&rsquos position of leadership in the air.

Consolidated Vultee workers are proud that they were selected to work with the US Army Air Forces in designing and building this great new addition to America&rsquos strength in the air. They have a right to be!

With its crew of 15 men, the B-36 has a maximum bomb capacity of 72,000 pounds. Two tank cars are needed to carry the 21,000 gallons of gasoline to fill the fuel tanks of the B-36. This giant bomber has six engines with a total of eighteen thousand horsepower. The tail fin of the B-36 stands almost as high as the average 5-story apartment building. The 230-foot wingspread of the B-36 is 10 feet more than that of two B-24 Liberator bombers.

Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation

San Diego, California &ndash Downey, California &ndash Wayne, Michigan (Stinson Division) &ndash Fort Worth, Texas &ndash Nashville, Tennessee

Let&rsquos keep America strong in the air!

History [ edit | edit source ]

Cold War [ edit | edit source ]

7th Bombardment Wing emblem (B-29/B-36 era)

Arrival of the first B-36A at Carswell "City of Fort Worth" (AF Serial No. 44-92015), in June 1948 along with a 7th Bomb Wing B-29.

7th Bombardment Wing Consolidated B-36D-1-CF Peacemaker 44-92097, showing Triangle-J tail code, September 1950

Consolidated B-36B-1-CF Peacemaker 44-92033 in flight

7th Bombardment Wing emblem (Early B-52era)

YB-52 prototype bomber at Carswell AFB, 1955 shown with a 7th Bomb Wing B-36

Activated on 1 October 1946 as a B-29 bombardment group and trained with B-29s in global bombardment operations, November 1947 – December 1948. Personnel and aircraft of the new group, consisting of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, were transferred to Fort Worth AAF from the 92nd Bombardment Group at Spokane AAFld, Washington.

With its B-29s, the 7th prepared its people for any combat eventuality that might arise, flying simulated bombing missions over various cities. On 5 July 1947, a flight of eight B-29s of the 492nd Bomb Squadron deployed from Fort Worth AAF to Yokota AB, Japan. Shortly after this the detachment received orders to redeploy to Fort Worth AAF via Washington, D.C. The aircraft left Yokota AB on 2 August, flew over the Aleutian Islands, then into Anchorage, Alaska. From Anchorage the flight flew over Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, turned south and flew over Minnesota and Wisconsin. The bombers flew a low-level flight between The Pentagon and Washington Monument in the Capitol on 3 August. Completing this aerial demonstration, they headed for Fort Worth, landing 31 hours after launch from Japan and covering 7,086 miles.

On 12 September, the group deployed 30 B-29s to Giebelstadt Army Airfield, near Würzburg, West Germany. This flight was the largest bomber formation flown from Fort Worth AAF overseas to date, landing in Germany on 13 September. During their ten-day stay, the group bombers participated in training operations over Europe, as well as a show-of-force display by the United States in the early part of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The flight redeployed from Germany on 23 September.

On 17 November 1947, the 7th Bombardment Wing was established to organize and train a force capable of immediate and sustained long range offensive warfare and operations in any part of the world. The 7th Bombardment Group became its operational component. The wing's mission was to prepare for global strategic bombardment in the event of hostilities. Under various designations, the 7th Bomb Wing flew a wide variety of aircraft at the base until its inactivation in 1993.

In June 1948 the first Consolidated B-36A Peacekeeper was delivered. The first B-36 was designated the "City of Fort Worth" (AF Serial No. 44-92015), and was assigned to the 492d Bomb Squadron. With the arrival of the B-36s, the wing was redesignated as the 7th Bombardment Wing, Heavy on 1 August. B-36s continued to arrive throughout 1948, with the last B-29 being transferred on 6 December to the 97th Bomb Group at Biggs AFB. For 10 years, the "Peacemaker" cast a large shadow on the Iron Curtain and served as our nations major deterrent weapons system.

As part of the 7th Bomb Wing, the 11th Bomb Group was activated on 1 December with the 26th, 42nd, and 98th Bomb Squadrons, Heavy, were activated and assigned. The 11th Bomb Group was equipped with B-36As for training purposes. A five ship B-36 formation was flown on 15 January 1949, in an air review over Washington, D.C., commemorating the inauguration of the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman.

In February 1949, a B-50 Superfortress (developed from the famed B-29) and named Lucky Lady II took off from Carswell for the first nonstop flight around the world. She returned to Carswell after mid-air refueling, flying 23,108 miles, and remaining aloft for ninety-four hours and one minute.

In January 1951, the 7th took part in a special training mission to the United Kingdom. The purpose of the mission was to evaluate the B-36D under simulated war plan conditions. Also, further evaluate the equivalent airspeed and compression tactics for heavy bombardment aircraft. The aircraft, staging through Limestone AFB, Maine, would land at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, following a night radar bombing attack on Helgoland, West Germany. From there the bombers would conduct a simulated bomb run on the Heston Bomb Plot, London, finally landing at RAF Lakenheath.

This was the first deployment of wing and SAC B-36 aircraft to England and Europe. For the next four days the flight flew sorties out of England. The aircraft redeployed to the states on 20 January arriving at Carswell on 21 January.

On 10 December 1957, the 98th Bomb Squadron was detached from the wing and assigned to the newly activated 4123rd Strategic Wing at Carswell. This would become the first Boeing B-52 Stratofortress unit at Carswell. During January 1958, the wing began transferring its B-36 bombers to various SAC wings. On 20 January, the wing transferred all B-52 equipment and property on hand to the 4123rd Strategic Wing in order to facilitate that organization's conversion, which was scheduled several months ahead of the 7th Bomb Wing at Carswell. The 7th Bomb Wing officially became a B-52 organization with the adoption of manning documents and equipping authorizations on 1 February 1958.

On 30 May, Memorial Day, the last of the B-36's in the wing were retired with appropriate ceremonies and "Open House". Air Force and civilian personnel of the base, and civilians from surrounding communities were on hand to bid the "Peacemaker" a fond farewell. This last flight of a B-36 phased out completely the B-36 program in the wing.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the primary mission of the wing was training in global strategic bombardment and air refueling operations. On 13 April 1965, the 7 BW deployed its forces to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam to support SAC combat operations in Southeast Asia. Most of the wing's bombers and tankers, along with aircrews and some support personnel, were deployed. At Andersen AFB, the wing flew more than 1,300 missions over Vietnam, and returned to Carswell in December 1965.

B-52 crews were sent through an intensive two-week course on the B-52D, making them eligible for duty in Southeast Asia. B-52s assigned to combat duty in Vietnam were painted in a modified camouflage scheme with the undersides, lower fuselage, and both sides of the vertical fin being painted in a glossy black. The USAF serial number was painted in black on the fin over a horizontal red stripe across the length of the fin.

The B-52 effort was concentrated primarily against suspected Viet Cong targets in South Vietnam, but the Ho Chi Minh Trail and targets in Laos were also hit. During the relief of Khe Sanh, unbroken waves of six aircraft, attacking every three hours, dropped bombs as close as 900 feet from friendly lines. Cambodia was increasingly bombed by B-52s from March 1969 onward.

By mid-1973 most wing KC-135 resources had redeployed, and most B-52 resources returned by January 1974. The wing resumed nuclear alert status on 3 January 1974. From 4 December 1973 to May 1975, the wing conducted B-52D replacement training, and from January 1974 also conducted B-52D combat crew training, i.e., providing B-52 flight training to novice crews. Beginning in June 1974 the wing also conducted B-52 and KC-135 Central Flight Instructors' courses. Participated in numerous USAF and NATO exercises worldwide. Used B-52s for ocean surveillance and ship identification in joint naval operations.

Wing KC-135 aerial refuelers supported tanker task forces worldwide. In October – November 1983, the wing supported the invasion of Grenada with aerial refueling. In the 1980s the base received several new weapons systems, including modified B-52H aircraft. In 1983, B-52 crews began training with a new weapon system, the SRAM (Short Range Attack Missile) and later, in 1985, the ALCM (Air Launched Cruise Missile). Also, the wing flew numerous atmospheric sampling missions during 1986 and 1987 in response to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident.

Deployed air refueling personnel and equipment to provisional wings in Southwest Asia, August 1990 – February 1992. The wing hosted the first Soviet START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) exhibition inspection team in September 1991.

Modern era [ edit | edit source ]

Began preparations for base closure at Carswell AFB in January 1992. Released of all operational capabilities on 1 January 1993. Closed Carswell AFB on 30 September 1993 and moved to Dyess AFB, TX, without personnel or equipment, on 1 October 1993. Equipped with B-1B and C-130 aircraft, the 7 Wing regained its combat and worldwide tactical airlift missions. In 1997, assumed responsibility for all B-1B initial qualification and instructor upgrade training for Air Combat Command. Since 2000, provided bombing, airlift support, training and combat support to combatant commanders.

Lineage [ edit | edit source ]

Assignments [ edit | edit source ]

Components [ edit | edit source ]

    : 17 November 1947 – 16 June 1952 1 September 1991 – 1 January 1993 1 October 1993–present : attached 1 December 1948 – 16 February 1951
    : 1 April 1958 – 15 April 1960 1 March 1964 – 1 September 1991 1 September 1991 – 1 June 1992 : attached 16 February 1951 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 25 June 1968 assigned 31 December 1971 – 1 September 1991 : 25 June 1965 – 1 September 1991 : attached 1–10 December 1957 : attached 16 February 1951 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 1 August 1958 : attached 16 February 1951 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 15 June 1959 : 15 April-15 July 1960 : 15 April-15 July 1960
  • 4018 Combat Crew Training Squadron: 1 April 1974 – 31 March 1983.

Stations [ edit | edit source ]

Major Aircraft Assigned [ edit | edit source ]

Source for lineage, assignments, components, stations and aircraft assigned: Α] Β]

13 February 1950

13 February 1950: Two Consolidated-Vultee B-36B Peacemaker long-range strategic bombers of the 436th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Wing (Heavy), Strategic Air Command, departed Eielson Air Force Base (EIL), Fairbanks, Alaska, at 4:27 p.m., Alaska Standard Time (01:27 UTC), on a planned 24-hour nuclear strike training mission.

B-36B-15-CF 44-92075 was under the command of Captain Harold Leslie Barry, United States Air Force.¹ There were a total of seventeen men on board.

Also on board was a Mark 4 nuclear bomb.

The B-36s were flown to Alaska from Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, by another crew. The surface air temperature at Eielson was -40 °F. (-40 °C.), so cold that if the bomber’s engines were shut down, they could not be restarted. Crews were exchanged and the airplane was serviced prior to takeoff for the training mission. In addition to the flight crew of fifteen, a Bomb Commander and a Weaponeer were aboard.

Consolidated-Vultee B-36 44-92027. (LIFE Magazine)

After departure, 44-92075 began the long climb toward 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). The flight proceeded along the Pacific Coast of North America toward the practice target city of San Francisco, California. The weather was poor and the bomber began to accumulate ice on the airframe and propellers.

About seven hours into the mission, three of the six radial engines began to lose power due to intake icing. Then the #1 engine, outboard on the left wing, caught fire and was shut down. A few minutes later, the #2 engine, the center position on the left wing, also caught fire and was shut down. The #3 engine lost power and its propeller was feathered to reduce drag. The bomber was now flying on only three engines, all on the right wing, and was losing altitude. When the #5 engine, center on the right wing, caught fire, the bomber had to be abandoned. It was decided to jettison the atomic bomb into the Pacific Ocean.

Consolidated-Vultee B-36B-1-CF Peacemaker of the 7th Bombardment Wing. (U.S. Air Force)

The Mark 4 did not have the plutonium “pit” installed, so a nuclear detonation was not possible. The conventional explosives would go off at a pre-set altitude and destroy the bomb and its components. This was a security measure to prevent a complete bomb from being recovered.

The bomb was released at 9,000 feet (2,743 meters), north-northwest of Princess Royal Island, off the northwest coast of British Columbia, Canada. It was fused to detonate 1,400 feet (427 meters) above the surface, and crewmen reported seeing a large explosion.

Consolidated-Vultee B-36B-1-CF Peacemaker, 44-92033, of the 7th Bombardment Wing (Heavy). This bomber is similar to 44-92075. (U.S. Air Force)

Flying over Princess Royal Island, Captain Barry ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. He placed the B-36 on autopilot. Barry was the last man to leave 44-92075. Descending in his parachute, he saw the bomber circle the island once before being lost from sight.

Consolidated-VulteeB-36B-1-CF Peacemaker, 44-92033, of the 7th Bombardment Wing (Heavy). This bomber is similar to 44-92075. (U.S. Air Force)

Twelve of the crew survived. Five were missing and it is presumed that they landed in the water. Under the conditions, they could have survived only a short time. The survivors had all been rescued by 16 February.

It was assumed that 44-92075 had gone down in the Pacific Ocean.

Approximate path of B-36B 44-92075, 13 February 1950. (Royal Aviation Museum of British Columbia)

On 20 August 1953, a Royal Canadian Air Force airplane discovered the wreck of the missing B-36 on a mountain on the east side of Kispiox Valley, near the confluence of the Kispiox and Skeena Rivers in northern British Columbia.

The U.S. Air Force made several attempts to reach the crash site, but it wasn’t until August 1954 that they succeeded. After recovering sensitive equipment from the wreckage, the bomber was destroyed by explosives.

Bomb, Mark 4. (Nuclear Weapons Archive)

The Mark 4 bomb was designed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). It was a development of the World War II implosion-type Mark 3 “Fat Man.” The bomb was 10 feet, 8 inches (3.351 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 5 feet, 0 inches (1.524 meters). Its weight is estimated at 10,800–10,900 pounds (4,899–4,944 kilograms).

The core of the bomb was a spherical composite of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium. This was surrounded by approximately 5,500 pounds (2,495 kilograms) of high explosive “lenses”—very complex-shaped charges designed to focus the explosive force inward in a very precise manner. When detonated, the high explosive “imploded” the core, crushing it into a smaller, much more dense mass. This achieved a “critical mass” and a fission chain reaction resulted.

The Mark 4 was tested during Operation Ranger at the Nevada Test Site, Frenchman Flat, Nevada, between 27 January and 6 February 1951. Five bombs were dropped from a Boeing B-50 Superfortress of the 4925th Special Weapons Group from Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. The first four bombs were dropped from a height of 19,700 feet (6,005 meters) above ground level (AGL) and detonated at 1,060–1,100 feet (323–335 meters) AGL. Shot Fox was dropped from 29,700 feet (9,053 meters) AGL and detonated at 1,435 feet (437 meters) AGL. (Ground level at Frenchman Flat is 3,140 feet (957 meters) above Sea Level).

Operation Ranger, Shot Able, 5:45 a.m., 27 January 1951. Mark 4 bomb with Type D pit, 1,060 foot (323 meters) air burst. Yield, 1 kiloton. This was the first nuclear test in the continental United States since Trinity, 16 July 1945.

The Mark 4 was produced with explosive yields ranging from 1 to 31 kilotons. 550 were built.

Consolidated-Vultee B-36B-15-CF Peacemaker 44-92075 was completed at Air Force Plant 4, Fort Worth, Texas, on 31 July 1949. It had been flown a total of 185 hours, 25 minutes.

The B-36B is 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 8 inches (14.224 meters). The wings’ leading edges were swept aft 15° 5′ 39″. Their angle of incidence was 3°, with -2° twist and 2° dihedral. The empty weight is 137,165 pounds (62,217 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 326,000 pounds (147,871 kilograms).

With a wing area of 4,772 square feet (443 square meters) and 21,000 horsepower, the B-36 could fly far higher than any jet fighter of the early 1950s.

A Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B4 (R-4360-41) aircraft engine on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This engine is 9 feet, 1¾-inch (2.788 meters) long and 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters) in diameter. It weighs 3,567 pounds (1,618 kilograms). Wikipedia

The B-36B was powered by six air-cooled, supercharged and turbocharged 4,362.49 cubic-inch-displacement (71.488 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B4 (R-4360-41) four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines placed inside the wings in a pusher configuration. These had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 115/145 aviation gasoline. Each engine was equipped with two General Electric BH-1 turbochargers. The R-4360-41 had a Normal Power rating of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. Its Takeoff/Military Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., with water/alcohol injection. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible propellers with a diameter of 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-41 is 9 feet, 1.75 inches (2.788 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.00 inches (1.372 meters) in diameter, and weighs 3,567 pounds (1,618 kilograms).

The B-36B Peacemaker had a cruise speed of 193 knots (222 miles per hour/357 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 338 knots (389 miles per hour/626 kilometers per hour) at 35,500 feet (10,820 meters). The service ceiling was 43,700 feet (13,320 meters) and its combat radius was 3,710 nautical miles (4,269 statute miles/6,871 kilometers). The maximum ferry range was 8,478 nautical miles (9,756 statute miles/15,709 kilometers).

The B-36 was defended by sixteen M24A-1 20 mm automatic cannons. Six retractable gun turrets each each had a pair of 20 mm cannon, with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun (400 r.p.g.for the nose guns). These turrets were remotely operated by gunners using optical sights. Two optically-sighted 20 mm guns were in the nose, and two more were in a tail turret, also remotely operated and aimed by radar.

In this photograph, two of the B-36’s retractable gun turrets are visible behind the cockpit, as well as the nose gun turret. The plexiglas “blister” just ahead and below the dorsal turrets is a gunner’s sighting station. The bomb bay doors are open. (Unattributed)

The B-36 was designed during World War II and nuclear weapons were unknown to the Consolidate-Vultee Aircraft Corporation engineers. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in the four-section bomb bay. It could carry two 43,600 pound (19,777 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmakers, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb. When armed with nuclear weapons, the B-36 could carry several Mk.15 thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 25-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built by Convair. 73 of these were B-36Bs, the last of which were delivered to the Air Force in September 1950. By 1952, 64 B-36Bs had been upgraded to B-36Ds.

A number of U.S. Air Force wings and air bases would operate the B-36, including the following:

B-36 and the FICON Project

The B-36 was used for testing in the Fighter Conveyer (FICON) project with attached "parasite" fighters including the XF-35 Goblin and modified F-84 and F-84F jets.

Books about B-36 Peacemakers available from

Dennis Jenkins has produced another large B-36 book: Magnesium Overcast.

Meyers Jacobsen has authored another book about the Convair B-36 Peacemaker: A Photo Chronicle.

Convair B-36 : A Comprehensive History of America's 'Big Stick by Meyers K. Jacobsen. Mr. Jacobsen has been compiling this history for at least a quarter of a century.

Warbird Tech: Convair B-36 Peacemaker . This volume by Dennis Jenkins contains a surprising amount of information that did not get into "The Big Stick".

Dueling CD-ROMs

The history of the efforts to preserve B-36J, 52-22827 at Fort Worth is well documented in "B-36: Saving the Last Peacemaker" Second Edition, an html book on CD. This CD-ROM is viewed with your internet browser.

B-36: Moving the Last Peacemaker. These 875 photos show photographically the effort expended by all of the volunteers over a nine year period to save the aircraft. This CD-ROM is a self contained slide show that does not require a browser to view.

Convair B-36 Peacemaker "1946"

Convair B-36 Peacemaker "1946"

The Convair B-36 “Peacemaker” is a strategic bomber built by Convair and operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1949 to 1959. The B-36 is the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built. It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built, at 230 ft (70.1 m). The B-36 was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal from inside its four bomb bays without aircraft modifications. With a range of 10,000 mi (16,000 km) and a maximum payload of 87,200 lb (39,600 kg), the B-36 was capable of intercontinental flight without refuelling.

Entering service in 1948, the B-36 was the primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle of Strategic Air Command (SAC) until it was replaced by the jet-powered Boeing B-52 Stratofortress beginning in 1955. All but four aircraft have been scrapped.

Multiple modifications, including the aforementioned addition of four J47 turbojets, gave the B-36D and later versions the performance intended by the initial design. But by the time they flew, WWII was long over and the need to fly from the east coast of Canada to Berlin and back was no longer the main goal.

B-36s were known for their slogan of "six turning and four burning," though the jet engines were typically only used for takeoff and, though never required, additional speed over a bombing target. 

Convair B-36 Peacemaker – Six Turning Four Burning

The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was a larger than life aircraft in almost every way, but for such a dramatic aircraft, its 1949 – 1959 career was rather brief and underwhelming.

The aircraft’s conception actually dated back to the early 1940s, however by the time it arrived in service, it quickly became obsolete. Despite this, it still maintains the record as the biggest mass-produced piston engine aircraft ever built, and its enormous wingspan of 70 m is the largest on any combat aircraft in history.

The idea of such a mighty aircraft was conceived in 1941 to solve a potential future problem. This problem was if Britain fell to Nazi Germany, leaving the US without airbases close enough to Europe to stage flights from. The solution was an intercontinental bomber, capable of flying a round trip from North America to Berlin.

The United States Army Air Corps original requirement was for the aircraft to be able to reach a maximum of 450 mph, fly at 45,000 ft and possess a 12,000 mile range.

These requirements were simply unachievable with the technology available at the time, so they were reduced slightly. Convair (Consolidated at the time) won the contract for making this aircraft a reality in October of 1941, before the US had even joined the war.

Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Once the US joined the Second World War, Convair was asked to focus its resources on producing the B-24 Liberator, slowing progress on the B-36. Compounding this was the fact that Britain being occupied was seeming less likely. However the war in the Pacific meant there was still demand for the aircraft, which would be capable of bombing Japan from Hawaii, so work continued.

The resulting creation was an aircraft of gargantuan proportions, but one that arrived too late to see the war, with the first being completed on 20 August 1945.

The 49 m long fuselage was mated with huge wings that measured 70.1 m tip-tip. Six Pratt & Whitney R-4360-53 Wasp Major 28-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines producing 3,800 hp each were mounted on the trailing edge of each wing to prevent propeller wash from interfering with wing airflow. Each propeller was 5.8 m in diameter, the largest ever mounted on a production piston engine aircraft.

To begin with, the B-36 used single tires on each of its landing gear. The 6.2 m wide, 600 kg tires were the largest ever made at the time, but meant the aircraft was unable to operate from most airbases. This was changed with the production variant, which used four-wheel bogies instead.

The single main landing gear of the Convair XB-36. Production models used 4 wheels per strut.

Another change was the addition of two General Electric J47-19 jet engines at the end of each wing, giving the B-36 a total of 10 engines and earning it the nickname ‘six turnin’ four burnin”. The combined output of the B-36’s powerplants was around 40,000 hp.

These specifications led to some incredible capabilities. The B-36 was able to cruise at over 40,000 ft, higher than most AA guns and interceptors of the day, and its huge flight surfaces allowed it to out-maneuverer smaller fighter aircraft at these heights.

It had a combat range of almost 4,000 miles, or a continuous range of 10,000 miles and could stay airborne for up to 40 hours. It was also able to carry an immense bomb load of 39,000 kgs in its four bomb bays, more than event the later B-52 Stratofortress.

Its huge size lead to a complex and rigorous amount of maintenance. Its six 28 cylinder engines needed 336 spark plugs, and were notoriously unreliable. The wings were so large that they were 2.1 m at their thickest, allowing an engineer to crawl through a tunnel to access the engines in flight.

The XC-99 with the Beecraft Wee Bee, billed as the world’s smallest aircraft

The aircraft had some truly impressive capabilities, but was hampered by advancements in emerging technologies, like anti-air missiles, jet powered interceptors, and faster jet powered bombers and in-flight refuelling, which the B-36 lacked. Its acceptance into service in the late 1940s was truly a time of radical change in technologies, meaning it was immediately obsolete in many ways.

Despite this, the B-36’s trump card was its sheer brawn, capable of lifting more, for longer and further than any other aircraft in the world at the time, and even many more since then. On top of this, the beginning of the Cold War between the US and USSR forced the US to maintain an intercontinental nuclear strike capability.

Newer jet bombers like the B-47 Stratojet lacked the range and payload of the B-36, and the intercontinental ballistic missile was still over a decade away. This meant that the US not only accepted the B-36, but also made it their primary nuclear weapons delivery platform of the Strategic Air Command.

The pure scale of the B-36 meant it was ideal for trailing experimental technologies. A NB-36H was designed to carry an 18 ton nuclear reactor in its bomb bay, as well as a 4 ton lead shield to protect the crew. The reactor never powered the bomber, but it was flown while it was operating for 89 hours in total. The B-36 was also involved in testing parasitic aircraft, which would be carried by the B-36 until they were needed, where smaller aircraft we detach and complete its mission, before returning to the B-36.

The B-36 was also used to test the worlds largest aerial camera, which weighed three tons and could photograph a golf ball from 45,000 ft.

The aircrafts obsolescence would eventually catch up with, when closely-capable aircraft like the B-52 arrived. Its lack of in-flight refuelling, and slow speed made it defenceless against newer, high speed fighters. Scrapping of the aircraft began in early 1956, where aircraft were flown directly from their airbases to US scrapyards.

Thankfully, four B-36s remain today.

Photograph of President Truman waving from inside a B-36A bomber, at an air show at Andrews Air Force Base.

Project FICON.

RB-36Ds in Convairs Aircraft plant.

Second YB-60 prototype (serial number 49-2684) under construction.

Convair XB-36. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Convair YB-60 was a derivative of the Convair B-36 with jet engines and swept wings on the ramp at Edwards Air Force Base with a standard B-36F in the background.

The single U.S. Air Force Convair XC-99, a prototype heavy cargo aircraft based on the B-36, which first flew on 23 November 1947.

The YB-60 in flight. The YB-60 was a swept wing version of the B-36, powered entirely by jet engines.

6th Bombardment Wing Convair B-36F-5-CF Peacemakers 49-2683 and 49-2680

A Convair B-36 undergoes structural testing.

A Convair GRB-36F and Republic YRF-84F during tests the FICON Project.

A Douglas B-18 Bolo, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress and the B-36 Peacemaker dominating the group photo with a 230-foot wingspan.

A U.S. Air Force Convair XB-36 parked beside a Boeing B-29 for a size comparison at Carswell Air Force Base, Ft. Worth, Texas.

A young ‘cowboy’, the son of a member of the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, looks over the Convair built YB-60 during its visit at Edwards, 1953

An XB-52, the prototype to the B-52. at Carswell AFB, 1955 shown with a 7th Bomb wing B-36

B-36 pilot wearing the tight-fitting high altitude suit and helmet, designed by the Air Force to protect its fliers from the low air pressures encountered at high altitudes.

B-36, B-52 and B-58 from Carswell AFB, Texas in formation flight as B-36 is retired, 1958

Convair B-36 with experimental tracked landing gear, to reduce ground pressure for soft-field use.

Convair B-36s awaiting their fate at the 3040th Aircraft Storage Depot in Tucson in 1958

Convair NB-36H flying nuclear reactor testbed in flight seen from rear right.

Convair NB-36H flying nuclear reactor testbed in flight seen from rear right

Convair XB-36 as it prepares for a taxi test through a grass field

Convair XB-36 experimental tracked nose landing gear detail

GRB-36 launching YRF-84F parasite fighter. The B-36 airframe was involved in the FICON project to develop parasitic aircraft.

Hundreds of people walked to the North end of SFO on October 10, 1948 for a first look at the huge B-36. It was part of the San Francisco Air Fair celebration.

NB-36H nuclear test bed on ramp.

NB-36H producing contrails in flight.


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