The experience of creating a very successful Douglas A-20 feat Douglas Aircraft Company to create an improved aircraft that combines the characteristics of a day attack aircraft and an average bomber. The aircraft was supposed to replace not only the A-20, nor the North American B-25 Mitchell and Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber, which was in service with the Army Air Corps. The development of A-26 began as a private initiative on the part of Douglas at the plant in El Segundo (El Segundo, California).
Already in the fall of 1940, Douglas specialists began the development of a draft design of the aircraft, which was created on the basis of the USAAF memorandum, which listed all the flaws of the A-20. The bomber squad of the experimental technical department at Wright Field (Ohio) airbase assisted in these developments, also pointing out a number of aircraft deficiencies, including the lack of crew interchangeability, insufficient protective and offensive weapons, and a large run-up and mileage.
The plane had much in common with the A-20 Havoc model, which was at that time in service with the US Army Air Force and supplied to the Allies. The project was a twin-engine aircraft with a mid-wing laminar profile. The wing was equipped with electrically controlled double-slotted flaps. To give the vehicle a streamlined shape and reduce takeoff weight, the defensive armament was concentrated in the upper and lower remote-controlled turrets, which were controlled by a gunner located in the rear of the fuselage. In the design of the new aircraft, some of the features that were tested on the A-20 were used. As on the A-20, the A-26 used a tricycle landing gear with a nose strut, retracted by means of a hydraulic drive, and the nose strut was retracted with a 90-degree turn. The main landing gear was retracted into the tail section of the engine nacelles. The aircraft had a large bomb bay in the fuselage capable of accommodating up to 3000 pounds of bombs or two torpedoes. In addition, the aircraft was supposed to be equipped with external underwing points for hanging bombs or for installing additional weapons. The aircraft was supposed to be equipped with two 18-cylinder air-cooled twin-row radial engines Pratt & Whitney R-2800-77 with a takeoff power of 2000 hp.
Protection against enemy aircraft was provided by the upper and lower turrets with remote control. Each installation housed two 12,7 mm machine guns. The fire from both installations led the shooter, who was in a special compartment behind the bomb bay.
In advance it was planned to manufacture the aircraft in two versions: a three-day bomber with a transparent nose, which housed the navigator / bombardier and a double night fighter with a metal nose, which housed small arms and a radar antenna. The two versions were essentially identical, except for the bow.
After the development of the drawings, work began on the construction of a full-size model. Officials from the Air Corps inspected the layout between 11 and 22 on April 1941 of the year and 2 of June. The Military Department authorized the manufacture of two prototypes under the new designation A-26. The aircraft received the name "Invader" - "Invader" (the same name had a North American A-36 (option P-51), which was used in the Mediterranean theater of operations).
The first aircraft was a three-seater attack bomber with a transparent nose for the navigator / striker and was designated XA-26-DE. The second aircraft was a two-seater night fighter and received the designation XA-26A-DE. Three weeks later, the contract was amended to include the manufacture of a third prototype under the designation XA-26B-DE. The third sample was a three-seat attack aircraft equipped with a 75 mm gun in a metal nose casing. All three prototypes were to be manufactured at the Douglas plant in El Segundo. As a result, each prototype had the -DE letters added to the designation, which designated the manufacturer.
During the implementation of the project, some delays arose due to different, often contradictory requirements of the USAAF. The USAAF could not reach a final decision between a day bomber with a transparent nose fairing, an attack aircraft with a solid nose cover with 75 mm or 37 mm gun and a attack aircraft with a battery of large-caliber machine guns in the nose, covered with a metal fairing. USAAF initially required the installation of the 75 mm bow gun on all 500 ordered aircraft, but soon changed their minds and demanded that Douglas develop a day bomber with a transparent nose piece (which was designated A-26C) while developing the A-26B attack aircraft.
Work on the three prototypes progressed rather slowly, especially considering that the United States was already involved in the war (the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred a month after the receipt of the army contract). The first prototype was ready only in June 1942.
The prototype XA-26-DE (serial number 41-19504), powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 engines with a takeoff power of 2000 hp, located in large underwing gondolas, made its maiden flight on July 10, 1942 under the control of test pilot Ben Howard (Ben O. Howard). The engines rotated three-blade variable-pitch propellers with large fairings. The maiden flight went smoothly, prompting Howard to inform the United States Army Air Corps that the plane was ready for its duties. Unfortunately, his enthusiastic assessment was unrealistic, and it took about two more years before the A-26 entered service.
The crew consisted of three people - the pilot, the navigator / scorer (he usually sat in the hinged seat to the right of the pilot, but also took place in the transparent nose) and the gunner sitting in the compartment behind the bomb bay under the transparent fairing. In the initial phase of flight tests, there was no protective armament. Instead, fictitious dorsal and ventral turret installations were installed.
Flight performance was high, but during the tests some difficulties arose, the most serious of which was the problem of overheating of engines. The problem was resolved by removing the large forks of propellers and minor changes in the shape of the hoods. These changes were immediately implemented on the serial version of the aircraft.
The armament initially consisted of two 12,7 mm forward machine guns mounted on the right side of the fuselage in the nose and two 12,7 mm machine guns in each of the two remotely controlled turret systems. Turret installations were used by the shooter only to protect the tail section. The firing sector in this case was limited to the rear edges of the wings. The upper turret was usually serviced by the shooter, but it could be fixed in the direction of the nose of the aircraft with a zero angle of elevation, and in this case the pilot was firing from the installation. In two compartments inside the fuselage could be placed up to 900 kg. bombs, another 900 kg could be placed on four points under the wings.
As a result of all the delays from the time of the first prototype flight to full-scale participation in the A-26 hostilities, 28 months have passed.
Crew, man 3
Length, meters 15,62
Wingspan, meters 21,34
Height, meters 5,56
Wing area, m2 50,17
Empty weight, kg 10365
Curb weight, kg 12519
Maximum take-off weight, kg 15900
Powerplant 2xR-2800-79 "Double Wasp"
Power, hp, kW 2000 (1491)
Cruising speed, km / h 570
Maximum speed km / h, m 600
Rate of climb, m / s 6,4
Wing load, kg / 2 250
Thrust ratio, W / kg 108
Range with max. Bomb load, km 2253
Practical range, km 2300
Practical ceiling, m 6735
Armament, machine guns, mm 6х12,7
Bomb load, kg 1814
The appearance of the "Invaider" subsequently changed little. There were only three options: XA-26 (later A-26C) - a bomber with a glazed nose for the navigator-scorer, A-26A-night fighter with a radar in the bow and four 20-front body X-mm guns and A-26B-10 -H-10H-10H-XNUMX-mm guns and A-XNUMXB-4 opaque nasal part. The night fighter was short-lived, but the bombers and attack aircraft were massively built on Douglas assembly lines in Long Beach, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Heavily armored and capable of carrying up to 1814 kg of bombs, the A-26 with a maximum speed of 571 km / h at the height of 4570 m was the fastest Allied World War II bomber. Approximately 1355 A-26В attackers and 1091 A-26C bombers were built.
A-26В had very powerful weapons: six 12,7-mm machine guns in the bow (later their number increased to eight), remotely controlled upper and lower turret installations, each with two 12,7-mm machine guns, and up to 10 and more 12,7-mm machine guns in wing and ventral containers.
Unlike the Skyrider attack aircraft, also created by Douglas, the A-26 Invader managed to take part in World War II.
Thrown into battle in September 1944, as part of the 553-th bomber squadron, based in Great Dunmow, England, and soon to appear also in France and Italy, Inweider began to strike from the air at the Germans before the elimination of manufacturing defects.
The pilots were delighted with the maneuverability and ease of control, but the A-26 had an unnecessarily complicated and tiring dashboard, as well as a weak, easily degraded front landing gear. The lantern cockpit was difficult to open when an emergency leaving the car.
Over time, these problems were resolved.
Modifications presented on the serial A-26B (new cockpit light, more powerful engines, increased fuel and other modifications) were also presented on the A-26C. Starting with the C-30-DT series, a new cockpit canopy was installed, and with the C-45-DT series, the R-2800-79 engines appeared on the plane with a water-methanol injection system, six 12,7 mm machine guns in the wings, and increased fuel tanks volume and the possibility of suspension under the wings of unguided rockets.
At the European theater, the Invaders made 11567 sorties and dropped 18054 tons of bombs. The A-26 was quite capable of standing up for itself when meeting with enemy fighters. Major Myron L. Durkee of the 386th Bomont group in Bumont (France) chalked up a “likely victory” over German pride on February 19, 1945 aviation - jet fighter Messerschmitt Me-262. In Europe, for various reasons, about 67 “invaders” were lost, but the A-26 has seven confirmed victories in aerial combat.
In the Pacific, "Invader" also showed its high efficiency. Possessing a speed at sea level of at least 600 km / h, "Invader" was powerful. weapons for ground attack and naval targets. As a bomber, after appropriate modifications, A-26 also began to replace North American B-25 "Mitchell" in some parts.
The A-26 aircraft were in service with the 3, 41 and 319 bomber groups of US aircraft in operations against Formosa, Okinawa and Japan itself. The "Invaders" were active around Nagasaki before this city demolished the second atomic bomb.
After the victory over Japan, the plane, which may have appeared in the war too late, was based on many of the Far Eastern air bases, including Korea. Many vehicles were modified for other tasks: the CB-26В transport aircraft, the training TV-26В / С, the staff transport VB-26B, the testing machine for the guided missiles ЕВ-26С and the reconnaissance RB-26B / C appeared.
In June 1948, the Attack category was eliminated and all A-26 were reclassified into B-26 bombers. After the not-too-successful "Martin" B-26 "Marauder" bomber was removed from service, the "B-XNUMX" bomber passed to "Invader" ".
Their very limited participation in the Second World War was "Inveider" more than compensated for the next 20 years. Real recognition came to this aircraft in Korea.
By the time the war began, there was only one 3-I bombing group (3BG) of the US Air Force armed with Invader aircraft in the Pacific theater of military operations. She was based at the Iwakuni airfield in the southern part of the Japanese islands. Initially, it consisted of only two squadrons: 8-I (8BS) and 13-I (13BS). The first combat sortie of these units was assigned to 27 June 1950. The Invaders were supposed to hit the enemy in conjunction with the B-29 heavy bombers. But the weather over the sea did not allow the aircraft to rise into the air, and the flight was postponed. After a day, the weather improved, and early in the morning the 18 of the B-26 aircraft from the 13BS took off. Gathering over the sea, they headed for Pyongyang. The aim of the strike was the airfield on which the North Korean fighters were based. On it, the bombers met anti-aircraft batteries, but their fire was not distinguished by high accuracy. "Invaders" rained down on the parking of Yak-9 aircraft and airfield structures hail of high-explosive fragmentation bombs. Several aircraft attempted to take off to repel the attack. One fighter immediately fell under the barrage of machine-gun fire from the dive B-26 and fell to the ground. The second, seeing the death of a friend, disappeared into the clouds. After the bombing, aerial reconnaissance found that 25 airplanes were destroyed on the ground, a fuel depot and airfield structures were blown up. The debut of "Invaider" was a success.
But not without a loss, 28 June 1950 of the year in 13 hours 30 minutes four North Korean Yak-9 attacked the airfield Suwon. As a result, the B-26 bomber was destroyed. This plane was the first "Invader", lost during the outbreak of war.
The air superiority won by the Americans in the first days of the war made it possible for the Inweiders to fly to missions at any time convenient for them, without fear of meeting with enemy fighters. However, official US reports of North Korean aviation losses were too optimistic. Fighter aircraft of North Korea continued to exist. 15 July 1950 b-26 bombers were attacked by two Yak-9s. One of the "Invaders" received serious damage and barely reached its airfield. Three days later, the lucky “Yakov” airfield was discovered and a group of Shuting Star fighter jets were sent to destroy it. The small firepower of the F-80, which flew out of Japan, did not allow the airfield to be completely defeated, and on July 20, "Inweiders" appeared above it, completing the case. The runway and more than a dozen fighters were destroyed.
On the critical days of the war, the main task of the Inweider was considered to be the direct support of the retreating troops. Two squadrons of machines for this was clearly not enough. In order to reinforce the 3BG in August 1950, the United States Air Force began the preparation and manning of the 452 st reserve bomber group. Only in October, the group flew to Japan at the Milo Air Base. It consisted of 728, 729, 730 and 731 squadrons of the US Air Force reserve. By this time, the situation at the front had changed radically, and B-26 was no longer required to cover the retreating units, because the front line approached the Chinese border.
The emergence of the Soviet MiG-15 had a strong influence on the further tactics of the use of "Inweider". It became dangerous to fly during the day, and B-26 switched mainly to night activities. At the same time ended the era of group raids. The main, combat unit has become a "pair." Every evening the planes took off for the sole purpose of destroying the enemy’s communications and preventing him from supplying his troops by rail and road. In other words, B-26 flew to isolate the combat area. After 5 June 1951, B-26 began to take an active part in the operation, "Strangl" ("Asphyxiation"). In accordance with the plan of operation across the Korean Peninsula, a conditional one-degree strip was intersected, crossing the narrowest part of the peninsula. All roads passing within this lane are divided between aviation branches. The "Invaders" as part of the Air Force received at their disposal the western section of the strip north of Pyongyang. Objectives were detected visually: locomotives and cars - on lighted headlights and lights, and repair teams on the tracks - on fires and lanterns. Initially, the "Invaders" succeeded in capturing the enemy by surprise, and each night brought to the Koreans broken trains and burning motorcade. Then the North Koreans began to set up early warning posts on the hills adjacent to the roads. The sound of a flying plane indicated the need to put out lights or suspend work. In particularly important places, a dozen anti-aircraft guns were added to the posts of warning. American losses from anti-aircraft fire increased dramatically, and the effectiveness of the raids fell. Instead of strikes against previously chosen targets, the pilots preferred less dangerous sorties to the “free hunt”.
The warehouses and docks of this important eastern port felt the brunt of the destructive bombs dropped by the B-26 Invader bomber in 1951 in Wonsan.
At the end of 1951, a special unit appeared in the composition of the Soviet aviation units stationed in China - the 351 th Fighter Aviation Regiment of night interceptors. He was based in Anshan. The regiment's pilots flew piston fighters La 11. The absence of search radar onboard the aircraft made it difficult to search for targets, and fighters were guided over the radio from ground-based radar posts, which were only in the Andong area. This circumstance severely limited the area of operations of night bombers. However, the Invader bomber was their first victim. The victory was recorded at his own expense by Senior Lieutenant Kurganov.
During the war, there were cases when the "Inweiders" also had to act as night interceptors. So, at night 24 June 1951 of the year В-26 from 8-th squadron 3ВС, flying over its territory, found right in front of him a light bomber Po-2. Probably, the Koreans were returning from the bombing of the US K-6 airbase (Suwon). The week before, the Po-2 inflicted heavy losses on the US Air Force, destroying F-10 fighter jets in Suwon, near 86. Pilot B-26V was not taken aback and fired a volley from all onboard weapons. By-2 exploded.
In 1951, several B-26 “Patfinder” aircraft with radars appeared at the front. The Pathfinder radar could detect small mobile targets such as locomotives and trucks. They began to be used as leaders of strike groups and target designation aircraft. The flight navigator was engaged in the operation of the radar in flight. Finding the target, he gave the command to the pilot, if the "Patfinder" acted as a leader, or on the walkie-talkie set a strike group at the target. The last, sortie in Korea B-26 made 27 on July 1953 of the year.
In all, during the Korean War, B-26 aircraft carried out 53 000 combat missions, of which 42400 - at night. As a result, “Invaders”, according to American data, destroyed: 39 000 vehicles, 406 locomotives and 4000 railway cars.
It would seem that the active development of jet aircraft should have contributed to the rapid withdrawal of piston Invaders, but during this period the aircraft began to be actively used in other countries, and almost every one used it in combat operations. French cars fought in Indochina at the end of the 40-X-beginning of the 50-s, the Indonesian were used against the partisans. A little later, the French were also forced to use aircraft for counterguerrilla operations in Algeria. Perhaps it was precisely this that prompted the American firm “He Mark Engineering” to the idea of modifying “Invaider”, turning it into a specialized machine for fighting partisans. The main efforts were aimed at improving armaments, increasing the combat load and improving the take-off and landing characteristics. In February, the prototype of the B-1963K took off the 26 of the year, and after successful tests, from May 1964 to April 1965, the 40 machines were refitted. The main differences between these aircraft were more powerful (2800 hp) engines R-2800-103W, 8 machine guns caliber 12,7 mm in the bow, underwing pylons for the suspension of weapons (total load increased to almost 5 tons - 1814 kg in bomb bay and 3176 kg under the wing) and additional fuel tanks at the ends of the wing. The crew was reduced to two people. Eliminated defensive weapons.
Soon B-26K already fought in South Vietnam, thus connecting the era of the best piston aircraft with third-generation jet engines.
In the spring of 1966, it was decided to deploy B-26K in Southeast Asia to counteract the offensive of troops led by Ho Chi Minh from North Vietnam to Laos. Since northeastern Thailand was much closer to the proposed theater of military operations in southern Laos than the bases in South Vietnam, the US government decided to place B-26K there. However, in the middle of the 60-ies, Thailand did not allow the basing of bomber on its territory, and in May 1966, the old designation of the A-26A attack aircraft was returned to the aircraft.
A-26A, deployed in Southeast Asia, were attached to the 606 Squadron of Air Commando in Thailand. In combat, the aircraft of this squadron were known as Lucky Tiger. The A-26A connection from the 603 Squadron of Air Commando was officially known as the 1 Detachment (Detachment 1) and was in Thailand for six months. Since the activities in Laos were unofficial, A-26A based in Southeast Asia did not carry national insignia. The long narrow protrusion of the territory of Laos along the northern border of Vietnam became known as the "Steel Tiger Tooth" (Steel Tiger) and it became the primary goal of A-26A.
Most A-26A sorties in Laos took place at night, as the North Vietnamese air defense system made day flights of non-speed reciprocating aircraft with piston engines too risky. Trucks were one of the main goals of Counter Invader. Sometimes A-26A were equipped with an AN / PVS2 Starlight night vision device. Most aircraft were equipped with opaque nose pieces, but on several sorties the aircraft carried glass bow pieces. By December, 1966, A-26A, destroyed and damaged 99 trucks.
According to the specification, A-26A could carry the maximum combat load of 8000 pounds on underwing pylons and 4000 pounds on internal hangers. However, to improve maneuverability and reduce the load on the structure of the aircraft during combat missions, the payload was usually several. A typical variant of the combat load was a suspension on the underwing pylons of two SUU-025 containers with lighting rockets, two LAU-3A containers with missiles and four CBU-14 cluster bombs. Later, SUU-025 and LAU-3A were often replaced with BLU-23 containers with 500 pounds of feathered napalm bombs or a similar BLU-37 container with 750 pounds of bombs. It was also possible to carry incendiary bombs M31 and M32, incendiary bombs M34 and M35, fragmentation bombs M1A4, bombs M47 with a charge of white phosphorus and cluster bombs CBU-24, -25, -29 and -49. In addition, the aircraft could carry 250-pound multi-purpose bombs Mk.81, 500-pound Mk.82 and 750-pound M117.
The A-26A night tasks were gradually taken up by combat helicopters, and by November, the AC-130A and AC-130E and Counter Invader aircraft were gradually withdrawn from the fighting. During the fighting from 1969 aircraft based in Thailand, 30 was shot down.
The Douglas A-26 (later redefined in B-26) Invader was one of the most prominent American daytime twin-engine bombers of the Second World War period. Despite the fact that the aircraft began to enter service with the units only in the spring of 1944, it became widely known in the last war months during a series of operations in the European and Pacific theaters of military operations. After the war, the Invader remained in large numbers in service with the US Air Force and was widely used during the Korean War. Subsequently, the aircraft was used in both stages of the Vietnam conflict: first by the French Air Force, and then by the US. Although the last Invaders were decommissioned by the US Air Force in 1972, they were used for several more years in a number of other countries. Invader was also used in a number of petty armed conflicts and was used in several covert operations, including the failed landing in the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961.
A-26 was in service with 20 countries: France, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Cuba, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Laos, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Portugal, UK, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and South Vietnam Only after 1980, the war paint was finally washed away from this plane, and now it can be seen only in museums and private collections. Several dozen A-26 are still maintained in flying condition and are regular participants in various air shows.