Nov 272008

The three-engined XB-51 began life in 1946 as the XA-45, which featured two turbojets and two turboprops. While data is currently lacking, this design *seems* to have not only a tail turret, a bombardier (implying an internal bomb bay) and forward-firing – likely traversible – guns on the wingtip pods… but also two guns on the wingtip pods pointed *sideways,* and given aerodynamic fairings over the barrels. The pods seem to have tracks which indicate that the side-guns are also traversible. If this is indeed what they are, the most likely explanation is that the XA-45 was meant to orbit a target and unload fire on it with the side-guns, in much the same way that the AC-130 works.


 Posted by at 2:40 pm
  • Pat Flannery

    Not a bad looking design at all! It would be interesting to know if both wingtip pods had the barrels sticking out of their sides or just the port one.
    Another possibility is that instead of guns, these could be autoloading spin-stabilized rocket launchers, as those were being tested out as turret armament for the B-36 around this time.
    That would cut down on recoil a lot, so you could shoot some pretty good sized rockets out of them.
    But they do look more like cannons, and they do indeed look like they are supposed to be able to traverse side-to-side, almost like a robotic waist gunner… which brings up the question of how they are to be aimed.
    It looks like the tail gunner has a radar sight in his position, but nothing like that seems to be associated with these, unless that radar blister under the nose is supposed to aim all the guns.
    Notice the offset canopy, ala’ the Canberra?
    If it is a gunship that circles its target, maybe the backseater has some sort of optical sight he uses, and the guns indeed are only on the port wingtip.

  • Albert Hardin

    It actually appears there is another canopy on the other side giving it “bug eyed” canopies as on some Douglas designs.

  • Pat Flannery

    Now that I look at it closer, that appears to be the case. I mistook the far canopy for part of the other engine nacelle. Four aircrew under two individual canopies? Huh?
    It looks like the two back crew members face aft and have periscopes to aim the guns, a set-up rather like that used on some Luftwaffe aircraft in WW II.
    Since the far canopy has one of these also, and there’s a tail gunner, this suggests that both wings have sideways pointing guns at their tips.