In general, this plane did not free anyone from anything, the only thing the B-24 could free from was itself from the bomb load. But the "Liberator" did it masterfully.
But - let's go to history.
It all began in June 1938, when the leadership of the army and fleet The United States came to the conclusion that it needed a new heavy bomber, superior in flight performance to the B-17 Flying Fortress.
The development was undertaken by the Consolidated firm with the chief designer A. Ladden. The work on the Model 32 project turned out to be very original. The fuselage was made oval and very high. The bombs were suspended vertically in two compartments: front and rear.
A bomb load of 3630 kg was envisaged - four bombs at 908 kg, or eight at 454 kg, or 12 at 227 kg, or 20 at 45 kg.
An innovation was the new design of the bomb bay doors. There were no doors in the traditional sense, instead of them there were metal curtains that rolled into the compartment and did not create additional aerodynamic resistance when opening the bomb bay.
The chassis was three-pillar, with a nose pillar. The side landing gears were not retracted into the engine nacelles, as usual, but fit into the wing, like in fighters.
The armament for the project consisted of six 7,62 mm machine guns. One course, the rest - in the hatches above, below and on the sides, and one in the tail blister.
And the main difference between the new bomber is the Davis wing. The new wing, invented by engineer David Davis, was a breakthrough. The aerodynamic profile of this wing had a lower drag coefficient than most modern designs. This created significant lift at relatively low angles of attack and gave the aircraft better airspeed characteristics.
The most piquant thing in history is that the first B-24s were not planned for delivery to the US Army. The first orders came from overseas, from France and the UK. France, however, did not have time to receive its planes, since the war was over for it. And the French orders passed to the British. And the British received about 160 more from the French order for their planes. These were mainly reconnaissance bombers.
In the Royal Air Force, the planes received the big name "Liberators", that is, "Liberators".
In order to provide aircraft for everyone, American industrialists had to create a whole conglomerate. Douglas and Ford joined Consolidated and began helping with the release of aircraft parts and components. And in January 1942, the North American company joined the triumvirate, which also mastered the full assembly cycle of the B-24 at its factories. In general, because of this, even difficulties arose in clearly identifying aircraft modifications, in particular, where and by whom the aircraft was manufactured.
And the first serial version of the B-24 was the "Liberator", manufactured for export. It happened in the fall of 1940, and in December the first six aircraft were taken over by the Royal Air Force.
The first were followed by the rest, and as a result, the B-24A firmly received a residence permit in the Royal Air Force. Basically, these aircraft were manufactured as a complete set of submarine hunters.
The armament consisted of six 7,69-mm machine guns: one in the nose, two in the rear, one at the lower hatch point and two in the side hatches. The offensive armament consisted of a container with 2-4 20mm Hispano-Suiza cannons, and depth charges were installed in the rear bomb bay. The front bomb bay was occupied by a radar, the antennas of which were placed on the wings and in the bow.
In the summer of 1941, the first eight B-24As entered the American Air Force. Two cars from this batch were brought to Moscow in September 1941 by an American delegation led by Harriman to discuss Lend-Lease issues.
In August of the same year, the American military took over eight B-24A. They were used as transport aircraft.
In the meantime, the UK began to work hard to modernize the aircraft. The modified aircraft was named "Liberator II".
The differences were that the fuselage was lengthened by almost a meter, more precisely, by 0,9 m, by making an insert in front of the cockpit. The resulting volume was gradually filled with various onboard equipment, so the step turned out to be more than useful. The most interesting thing is that initially it was a purely cosmetic move that did not affect anything. But later, it brought a certain amount of usable space.
Further, two hydraulically powered Bolton-Paul turrets were delivered to the aircraft. Each turret carried four 7,92 mm machine guns. In addition to these machine guns, the aircraft was armed with coaxial 7,92-mm machine guns in the onboard installations and a single one in the lower hatch installation. A total of 13 machine guns.
The turrets have proven to be very useful equipment, greatly facilitating the work of shooters at high speeds.
In addition, all fuel tanks and fuel lines were sealed.
The first aircraft of this modification was taken over by Winston Churchill himself, who flew the Liberator until 1945. Then the prime minister moved to the York from the Avro company.
With Liberators II, the British armed two squadrons at Bombardment and three at Coastal Command. The bombers began to be used in combat mode, first in the Middle East and then in Burma.
American B-24s made their first combat mission on January 16, 1942. Bombed Japanese airfields on the islands. The losses were solely due to insufficient training of the crews to fly at sea. Two B-24s lost their course, fell behind the group and disappeared. The crew of one found a week later on the island, near which they plopped down on the forced, the second, unfortunately, could not find.
Another 17 aircraft received radars and were sent to the Panama Canal Security Group, where they served as patrol anti-submarine aircraft throughout the war.
"Liberator" began its march through aviation parts. The plane "entered" as it is, as it turned out to have very decent flight characteristics, reliability and armament. In general, the prospect of flying to the enemy without any problems, dumping three tons of bombs on his head and leaving safe and sound - the crews could not help but like this. After all, a twenty-five-ton bomb carrier could be accelerated to almost 500 km / h, which at that time was very impressive. For a bomber to escape in time is about the same as "catching up" for a fighter. Eternal competition.
Well, if the fighter did catch up, weapons were used. And here, too, there was a lot of wonderful things.
In parallel with the development of the V-24 (from modification A to D), experiments with weapons began.
On the American version of the B-24C, almost like the British, a dorsal turret from Martin Model 250CE-3 with two Browning 12,7 mm machine guns was installed behind the cockpit. Ammunition 400 rounds per barrel. The British version of the turret was installed in the aft fuselage behind the wing.
The Americans preferred the rate of fire of the British Vickers 7,92 mm, the range and damage of the Browning 12,7 mm. To hit - hit it. And practice has shown that any engine could be choked by a bullet from a Browning very easily.
By the way, American engineers had to invent an automatic breaker, by analogy with a synchronizer, excluding a machine gun shot when the tail unit was in the turret fire sector.
In the tail section, an A-6 turret from Consolidated was installed with two 12,7 mm machine guns. Ammunition 825 rounds for two barrels. One machine gun was installed in the bow. Another 12,7 mm machine gun was installed movably under the fuselage in the direction of the tail section. Well, two machine guns in the side windows.
As a result, 8 machine guns 12,7 mm. Very, very confident.
Then it occurred to someone that they could save some money. And two turrets should be enough to defend the plane. The ventral and side machine guns were decided to be removed as unnecessary.
In order to improve the aerodynamics of the aircraft, they tried to install a retractable turret with a remote control from the Bendix company. The aiming system turned out to be very complex and often just disorientated the shooters. A total of 287 aircraft with such an installation were produced, after which it was abandoned.
And by that time the war was gaining momentum and the appearance of aircraft with reduced armament was received very well. "Zer gut!" - said the Germans, "Arigato!" the Japanese exclaimed. And the curve of losses from fighters in 1942 crept up very steeply.
First, they returned the machine gun under the fuselage. The guys on the Focke-Wulfs loved to attack the Liberator's defenseless belly from the “swing” ...
By the way, the same "Fokkers" were forced to strengthen the forward-facing weapons. Frontal attack on the FW.190 proved to be very effective. Therefore, in the bow they began to install three "Browning" at once. One simply did not have time to stuff the 190's hard forehead with the proper amount of lead and cut out the twin "star" of the engine.
And then the machine guns in the side windows were returned. True, the turrets were improved, now, if there was no need for machine guns, they could be removed and the windows closed.
In 1944, the under-fuselage machine gun was replaced by a Sperry turret with coaxial machine guns. A similar installation was installed on the B-17E. The installation could be rotated 360 degrees, and machine guns could rise in the range from 0 to 90 degrees.
It was in this configuration in terms of armament that the B-24 fought until the very end of the war. 11 large-caliber machine guns made the B-24 one of the most protected aircraft of that war in this regard.
Later modifications (B-24H) were equipped with the A-15 bow turret from Emerson Electric. Then a similar installation from Consolidated A-6A appeared.
The aircraft was one of the first in the United States to receive a normal C-1 autopilot. This was very useful both when flying to islands in the Pacific Ocean and over Europe.
On the modification of the B-24J, a radio semi-compass / directional receiver of coordinates RC-103 appeared. Aircraft with a receiver can be recognized in the photo by a horseshoe-shaped antenna at the top of the fuselage at the front.
At the same time, a thermal anti-icing system appeared on the aircraft. The system diverted hot air from the engines to the edges of the wings (flaps and ailerons) and the tail. This has proven to be more efficient than electrically heated systems as in previous versions.
It would be nice to bring heat into the nose turret, where air currents were constantly present, because of which the arrows were frankly freezing. But until the very end of the war, this problem could not be solved.
As all the modifications and changes were made, the B-24 was frankly "fat" and heavier. Considering that the engines remained the same, an increase in weight from 17 tons for the "A" version to 25 tons for the "D" version, and the maximum take-off weight of the "J" version (the most common) reached 32 tons, of course, all this could not but affect on flight performance.
Crashes of overloaded aircraft during takeoff have become commonplace. But if it was only about takeoff ... As the mass increased, the maximum and cruising speeds, range and climb rate dropped. It was noted that the plane became more sluggish, reacted worse to giving the rudders, and deteriorated stability in flight.
The wing loading has increased. This was used by the Germans, who, on the basis of the investigated downed Liberators, issued recommendations to the pilots to fire on the planes, which made the flight very problematic both due to damage to the wing mechanization and simply caused the plane to fall due to a control failure.
The ventral turret had a particularly negative effect on control. Management became so sluggish at altitude that there was no talk of effective maneuvering while avoiding fighter attacks.
It got to the point that the installation began to be massively abandoned, and in modernization centers in the United States, ball mounts were removed from aircraft intended for operation in the Pacific Ocean and a pair of machine guns were installed instead of them, firing, as before, through a hatch in the floor.
In the European theater of operations, this installation was said goodbye in the summer of 1944, when the Thunderbolt and Mustang fighters appeared in sufficient numbers, which significantly complicated the operations of the Luftwaffe aircraft.
In Europe, a number of B-24Js were equipped with H2X radar for blind bombing. The radar was installed in place of the dismantled turret. The experience of working with bombs based solely on radar data was found to be useful, but due to the fact that the technique was too imperfect, the experimental data was postponed for the future.
In general, the number of modifications of the B-24 for different operating conditions is simply amazing. There were reconnaissance aircraft, in the bomb compartments of which from 3 to 6 cameras were installed, there were leader aircraft for guiding groups of aircraft along the route, there were tankers for transporting fuel (C-109)
The fact that the B-24 was an anti-submarine, patrol and transport-assault aircraft is quite decent.
However, for all its merits, the B-24 by the end of the war turned out to be very overweight. The plane openly asked for more powerful engines, installation of 1400-1500 hp motors. could make life much easier for the crews, but alas. The war dictated its terms, and even the Americans could not solve this problem with honor.
The car turned out to be very difficult to drive, especially towards the end of the war. Taking off with a full bomb load was a problem. Leaving the wrecked car in the air was also very difficult. The car behaved very unstable, and at the slightest damage to the wings, it fell into a fall.
It turned out to be an interesting moment: in 1944-45, many pilots openly preferred the faster and more modern B-24, outdated in every sense, but more reliable B-17.
By the way, the fact that after the war the B-24 was massively decommissioned and sent for disassembly only testifies to the fact that the car clearly did not correspond to the moment. The history of other machines shows that individual models served for 15-20 years after the war. For the B-24, his career ended with the end of the war.
Only five aircraft have survived to this day.
However, this does not at all diminish the contribution to the victory over the enemy that the B-24 made throughout the war. It was a very difficult aircraft, but it was the workhorse of long-range aviation of the USA, Great Britain and a number of other countries, not inferior in anything to other representatives of this class of aircraft.
Wingspan, m: 33,53
Length, m: 19,56
Height, m: 5,49
Wing area, м2: 97,46
- empty aircraft: 17 236
- normal takeoff: 25 401
- maximum take-off: 32 296
Engines: 4 х Pratt Whitney R-1830-65 with ТН General Electric B-22 х 1200 hp
Maximum speed, km / h: 483
Cruising speed, km / h: 346
Practical range, km: 2 736
Maximum rate of climb, m / min: 312
Practical ceiling, m: 8 534
Crew, prs: 10
- 10-12 machine guns "Browning" 12,7 mm in the bow, upper, ventral and tail turrets and in the side windows.
- The maximum bomb load in bomb bays is 3 kg.
In the middle part of the wing there were shelves for the suspension of two 1 kg of bombs.
Maximum bomb load (together with external sling) during short-range flight is 5 kg (including on external sling). Normal bomb load 806 kg.