Nov 292010

A timely followup to this post, here is a cutaway illustration of the Consolidated Vultee Model 36 (development phase of the B-36) dated 4-19-1944. The fuselage and tail appear to be pretty much what the XB-36 wound up with, but the defensive armament is still a ways off. In the top and bottom forward gun bays are manned, pressurized, retractable turrets each packing two 37-mm cannon. The aft top and bottom gun bays each have a single remotely controlled turret each with four 50 caliber machine guns.

I can’t help but think that “pressurized, retractable turrets” would have been another way of saying “design headache, maintenance nightmare.”

 Posted by at 1:09 am
  • Pat Flannery

    Odd, in that the B-29 design had the remote-controlled turrets on it from this time period AFAIK.
    A pressurized manned gun turret itself would be very difficult to do without trying to make it retractable.
    One of the reasons the B-36 had so many twin 20mm cannon turrets on it was due to the fact that the chosen cannon was prone to frequent jamming, so they thought that sticking so many twin-gun turrets on it would mean that at least one cannon in each turret would be firing when needed.

  • GeorgeA

    Wouldn’t want to be a gunner trapped in one of those turrets after some battle damage (shades of “The Mission”).

    What always amazes me about the B-36 is that it was actually the reduced-spec version. The original spec called for a 12,000 mile range and 450 mph over the target, but in April 1941 that clearly wasn’t achievable, so they “downscaled” the requirement to what became the B-36.

  • K. Anderson

    I presume you’ve seen Disney’s Victory Through Air Power. One of the few things De Seversky got wrong was his idea that we would bomb Japan from the Aleutians with giant six engined bombers that resemble the early B-36 design. I’ve often wondered if he was influenced by the B-36 or if Consolidated was influenced by De Seversky.

  • GeorgeA

    Since there has never been a good explanation for the existence of the Lycoming XR-7755 except that we wanted a giant-ass airplane motor, I’ve always assumed it was developed as a backup in case a *really* big bomber was necessary.

    > I presume you’ve seen Disney’s Victory Through Air Power.

    But of course, although I personally preferred “Victory Through Hare Power”. 🙂

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  • Pat Flannery

    B-36 was designed to do attacks on Germany from the continental US or Canada in case Britain got invaded.
    The big problem with pressurized manned turrets is that if they get damaged, the internal air pressure can blow the turret operator clean out of the aircraft. That happened to more than one B-45 tail gunner when the big rear-facing bubble dome on his gunnery station ruptured:
    …and quickly gave the aircraft a bad reputation.
    They were going to replace it with a automated radar-controlled one in the B-45B version, but couldn’t get that to work, so it stayed on the B-45C after the B model was canceled.
    One thing B-36 crews feared is that they would be on the trolley in the tunnel from the front to the rear of the aircraft when one end depressurized and they would get shot out of the tunnel like they were coming out of a giant BB gun.