Consolidated B-24 Liberator
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
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The Consolidated B-24 Liberator is an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and some initial production aircraft were laid down as export models designated as various LB-30s, in the Land Bomber design category.
At its inception, the B-24 was a modern design featuring a highly efficient shoulder-mounted, high aspect ratio Davis wing. The wing gave the Liberator a high cruise speed, long range and the ability to carry a heavy bomb load. Early RAF Liberators were the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a matter of routine. In comparison with its contemporaries, the B-24 was relatively difficult to fly and had poor low speed performance; it also had a lower ceiling and was less robust than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. While aircrews tended to prefer the B-17, General Staff favored the B-24 and procured it in huge numbers for a wide variety of roles. At approximately 18,500 units – including over 4,600 manufactured by Ford Motor Company – it holds records as the world’s most produced bomber, heavy bomber, multi-engine aircraft, and American military aircraft in history.
The B-24 was used extensively in World War II. It served in every branch of the American armed forces as well as several Allied air forces and navies. It saw use in every theater of operations. Along with the B-17, the B-24 was the mainstay of the U.S. strategic bombing campaign in the Western European theater. Due to its range, it proved useful in bombing operations in the Pacific, including the bombing of Japan. Long range anti-submarine Liberators played an instrumental role in closing the Mid-Atlantic gap in the Battle of the Atlantic. The C-87 transport derivative served as a longer range, higher capacity counterpart to the Douglas C-47 Skytrain.
By the end of World War II, the technological breakthroughs of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and other modern types had surpassed the bombers that served from the start of the war. The B-24 was rapidly phased out of U.S. service, although the PB4Y-2 Privateer maritime patrol derivative carried on in service with the U.S. Navy in the Korean War.
Design and development
The Liberator originated from a United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) request in 1938 for Consolidated to produce the B-17 under license. After company executives including President Reuben Fleet visited the Boeing factory in Seattle, Washington, Consolidated decided instead to submit a more modern design of its own.
The new Model 32 combined designer David R. Davis‘s wing, a high-efficiency airfoil design created by unorthodox means, with the twin tail design from the Consolidated Model 31 flying boat, together on a new fuselage. This new fuselage was intentionally designed around twin bomb bays, each one being the same size and capacity of the B-17 bomb bays.
In January 1939, the USAAC, under Specification C-212, formally invited Consolidated] to submit a design study for a bomber with longer range, higher speed and greater ceiling than the B-17. The specification was written such that the Model 32 would automatically be the winning design. The program was run under the umbrella group, “Project A”, an Air Corps requirement for an intercontinental bomber that had been conceived in the mid-1930s. Although the B-24 did not meet Project A goals, it was a step in that direction. Project A led to the development of the Boeing B-29 and Consolidated’s own B-32 and B-36.
- Crew: 11 (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, radio operator, nose turret, top turret, 2 waist gunners, ball turret, tail gunner)
- Length: 67 ft 8 in (20.6 m)
- Wingspan: 110 ft 0 in (33.5 m)
- Height: 18 ft 0 in (5.5 m)
- Wing area: 1,048 ft² (97.4 m²)
- Airfoil: Davis 22% / Davis 9.3%
- Empty weight: 36,500 lb (16,590 kg)
- Loaded weight: 55,000 lb (25,000 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 65,000 lb (29,500 kg)
- Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0406
- Drag area: 42.54 sq ft (3.952 m2)
- Aspect ratio: 11.55
- Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-35 or -41 turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp (900 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 290 mph (250 kn, 488 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 215 mph (187 kn, 346 km/h)
- Stall speed: 95 mph (83 kn, 153 km/h)
- Range: 2,100 mi (1,800 nautical miles (3,300 kilometres))
- Ferry range: 3,700 mi (3,200 nmi (5,900 km))
- Service ceiling: 28,000 ft (8,500 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,025 ft/min (5.2 m/s)
- Wing loading: 52.5 lb/ft² (256 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.0873 hp/lb (144 W/kg)
- Lift-to-drag ratio: 12.9
- Guns: 10 × .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in 4 turrets and two waist positions
o Short range (˜400 mi [640 km]): 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg)
o Long range (˜800 mi [1,300 km]): 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg)
o Very long range (˜1,200 mi [1,900 km]): 2,700 pounds (1,200 kg)