Weapons of World War Two
Among the weapons which eased more the Allied victory during the Second World War can not be omitted the four-engined bomber B-24 Liberator, produced in North America by Consolidated as main manufacturer, besides several subsidiary companies. Among other things, the B-24 would be the bomber built in a largest amount during the conflict. They would be produced up to 18188 exemplars, number followed by the German production with 14980 Junkers 88, and the British with 11461 Wellington. In the comparative chart of production, another famous American bomber, the B-17 Flying Fortress, occupies the fifth position, with "barely" 8685 exemplars.
Precisely for having a bomber of superior effectiveness than the B-17, at the beginning of 1939 the aviation of the United States Army started a contest between the projectists of the main American aeronautic industries. The winner was Isaac Laddon, from Consolidated, who was in charge of carrying out the project. In less than one year the company complied with the request. The 29th December 1939 the prototype of the B-24 effectuated its first test flight. The realization had not been easy, because it was as well the first time that Consolidated had approached the construction of a large and exclusively terrestrial aircraft. Until that moment the company had produced only seaplanes, such as the PBY Catalina or the gigantic PB2Y Coronado.
But the result was more than appreciable, seen the success that the aircraft would obtain in the skies from Europe to the Pacific. Actually, the B-24 did not manage to surpass the B-17, and in some details it was slightly inferior to its predecessor. So the pilots complained that the aircraft were not able to stay in the air if it was severely hit, as was able do the B-17, which could fly with huge structural damages. In any case, the B-24 was an aircraft which managed to be appreciated without further ado, always performing its task honorably.
The B-24 was a large four-engined aircraft of metallic construction, high wing, landing gear in fore tricycle and tail with twin rudder. The fuselage, of semishell structure, comprised (in the version J, the most produced one) the fore twin turret, the bombing sight (the excellent Norden), the cockpit, the dorsal turret from which started the bomb bay, the attachment of the wings, two manual defensive positions located shortly after the center of the aircraft, under which there was a spherical ventral turret, and finally the attachment of the tail axis and the stern turret.
In the wings, extremely long and of a specially studied aerodynamical profile for having a good capacity of wing loading and flight, were placed four engines Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp R 1830 of 1217 horsepower, of magnificent characteristics already widely experimented. The crew, from eight to ten men, was accommodated in comfortable spaces protected by thick armor and fitted with installations of heating and oxygen breathing for high-altitude flight. A good electronic dotation, which comprised direction finder and equipment for "blind" flight, increased the flight safety margin in this aircraft, which can de defined without further ado as one of the great protagonists of the Second World War.
First flight/Entry into service: 29 December 1939 (XB-24); 1943 (B-24J)
Wingspan: 33.528 meters
Wing area: 97.362 square meters
Length: 19.431 meters (XB-24); 20.472 meters (B-24J and B-24M)
Height: 5.69 meters (XB-24); 5.48 meters (B-24J and B-24M)
Full load/Empty weight: 21046/12474 kilograms (XB-24); 29484/16556 kilograms (B-24J); 29257/16329 kilograms (B-24M)
Payload/Crew: 8572 kilograms/8 (XB-24); 12928 kilograms/8-10 (B-24J and B-24M)
Engines: Four Pratt and Whitney R 1830 33 of 1217 horsepower (XB-24); four Pratt and Whitney R 1830 65 of 1217 horsepower (B-24J and B-24M)
Cruising speed: 299 kilometers/hour (XB-24); 346 kilometers/hour (B-24J and B-24M)
Maximum speed: 439 kilometers/hour (XB-24); 467 kilometers/hour (B-24J); 483 kilometers/hour (B-24M)
Service ceiling: 9600 meters (XB-24); 8534 meters (B-24J and B-24M)
Defensive armament: Seven 7.7-millimeter machine guns (XB-24); ten 12.7-millimeter machine guns (B-24J and B-24M)
Drop armament: 1134 kilograms of bombs (XB-24); 2268-3632 kilograms of bombs (B-24J and B-24M)
Operational range: 4826 kilometers (XB-24); 3380 kilometers (B-24J and B-24M)
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