Consolidated B-32 Dominator

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B-32_Dominator

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The Dominator, one of the biggest and most complicated aircraft of World War II, was a major disappointment. It flew only a handful of combat missions and was scrapped immediately after the war.

In 1939 Consolidated responded to an Army Air Corps request to obtain a so-called hemispheric defense weapon by designing a super-heavy bomber based upon Consolidated’s existing B24 Liberator. The resulting prototype, in fact, looked like a scaled-up Liberator, but subsequent refinements gave the XB32 a large single fin, a pressurized cabin arrangement, and five elaborate power turrets. It was intended to compete directly with Boeing’s larger B29 Superfortress, but prolonged teething problems delayed the prototype’s maiden flight until September 1942.

The Army Air Forces wanted to begin replacing B-17s and B-24s with B-32s in the summer of 1944. The plan called for Mediterranean-based B-24 bomb groups to transition first, followed by other groups in the 15th Air Force and finally 8th Air Force groups. Because the B-32 test program was so far behind schedule, however, not a single B-32 was ever sent to the Mediterranean or European Theaters of Operation.

In December 1944 the B-32 program was almost canceled again. This time it was saved pending completion of a service test program. While the service test proceeded, combat crew training was started in preparation for deployment to the Pacific (pending a successful service test.) The service test revealed several minor and a few major problems, and the program was near cancellation once again in the spring of 1945.

Nonetheless, the Army was sufficiently pleased by the craft to place an order for 1,713 airplanes in 1943.

Although an impressive airplane, the B32 Dominator remained dogged by developmental and technical problems. At length it was decided to remove the pressurized cabin and power turrets and to restrict the B32 to low-level operations. These modifications delayed deployment of the craft until December 1944, eight months after the B29 had been committed to combat. At length, only 115 of the giant bombers were completed before the war ended.

In March 1945 Gen. George Kenney, Commander of the Far Eastern Air Forces (5th AF), traveled to Washington, D.C., to ask for B-32s. He wanted B-29s but was turned down because of higher priority needs elsewhere in the PTO. After demonstrations in Washington, General Kenney convinced the Army General Staff to allow him to conduct a combat evaluation of the Dominator.

A combat test plan of 11 missions was planned, and if successful, the B-32 was scheduled to replace all the B-24 groups in the Pacific Theater. Three B-32s were assigned to the 386th Bomb Squadron, 312th Bomb Group, 5th Air Force. The first combat test mission was flown against a supply depot at Antatet, Luzon, Philippines on May 29, 1945. The last mission of the generally successful combat test was flown on June 25, 1945, against bridges near Kiirun on the island of Formosa (Taiwan).

 

The 386th Bomb Squadron completed B-32 transition in July 1945 and flew six operational combat missions before the end of the war. Following the Aug. 9, 1945, bombing of Nagasaki, the 386th conducted photo reconnaissance missions and were attacked by flak and fighters on Aug. 17 and again by Japanese fighters on the Aug. 18. Although no Dominator was lost in combat, at least two were damaged. Sgt. Marchione, a photographer aboard one of the B-32s on the photo reconnaissance mission of Aug. 18, 1945, was killed when his bomber was attacked by fighters.

The last B-32 combat mission (also photo recon) was completed on Aug. 28, 1945. The 386th Bomb Squadron was ordered to cease combat operations two days later.

They flew a mere handful of missions over the Philippines and Taiwan before the war ended. However, one B32 enjoys the distinction of flying the last combat mission of World War II. On August 18, 1945, a pair of Dominators from the 368th Bombardment Squadron flew to Tokyo on a photographic mission, where they were attacked and claimed two Japanese fighters shot down. Considering the time and expense invested in the B32, it was still an embarrassing record. By 1946 all 115 B32s, bomber and trainer versions alike, had been deactivated and sent to the smelter.

 

Variants

XB-32

Company Designation Model 33, three built, on first aircraft: Wright R-3350-13 (inboard) and Wright R-3350-21 (outboard) engines, three-bladed propeller, rounded, glassed nose, first two aircraft had a twin tail configuration. Second prototype was pressurized and had remotely controlled retractable gun turrets in the dorsal ventral positions, with a manned tail “stinger.” Second and third prototypes had numerous tail variations installed, including a B-29 tail installation. First flown 7 September 1942.

B-32-1CF

Model 34 flight testing aircraft first flown 5 August 1944. Wright R-3350-23 engines. First two aircraft initially had modified B-29 tails installed. Installation of armament, single rudder tabs, radar bombing equipment (AN/APQ-5B and AN/APQ-13) and long range navigation equipment, 10 built.

B-32-5CF

Twin rudder tabs made standard. Last 11 aircraft converted to TB-32-5CF with deletion of all armament (openings faired over), deletion of radar bombing equipment, and deletion of long range navigation equipment, 15 built.

TB-32-10CF

Redesigned bombardier’s entrance door, replacement of SCR-269-G Radio compass with AN/ARN-7 set, installation of engine fire extinguishers, 25 built.

TB-32-15CF

Empennage de-icer boots, four built.

B-32-20CF

Combat equipped aircraft. Pressurization system removed, scanning blister installed in rear fuselage, 21 built.

B-32-21CF

One B-32-20CF converted to paratroop conversion. All bombing equipment removed and benches installed in rear bomb bay and rear fuselage.

B-32-25CF

Modified fuel system to allow auxiliary tanks in the bomb bay. AN/APN-9 LORAN, 25 built.

B-32-30CF

Variant with a stabilized Sperry A-17A nose turret, installation of countermeasure equipment (AN/APQ-2, AN/APT-1 and AN/APT-2) and improved APQ-13A radar bombing equipment. Seven built, last three aircraft flown directly to storage and scrapped.

B-32-35CF

Seven produced with increased ammunition. Flown directly to storage and scrapped.

B-32-40CF

Ten built and flown directly to storage and then scrapped

B-32-45CF/50CF

Thirty-Seven under construction. Partially assembled machines were stripped of all their government-furnished equipment and engines and were scrapped on site by the contractor.

B-32-1CO

Three aircraft the same as the B-32-20CF but assembled by Consolidated – San Diego. 1 accepted – remaining two flown directly to storage and scrapped.

300 B-32s ordered, 118 delivered, 130 flyable, 170 cancelled, orders for a further 1,099 B-32-CFs and 499 B-32-COs were cancelled after VJ-Day

Specifications (B-32)

General characteristics

Crew: 10

Length: 82 ft 1 in (25.03 m)

Wingspan: 135 ft 0 in (41.16 m)

Height: 32 ft 2 in (9.81 m)

Wing area: 1,422 ft² (132.2 m²)

Empty weight: 60,278 lb (27,400 kg)

Loaded weight: 100,800 lb (45,800 kg)

Max. takeoff weight: 123,250lb (56,023 kg)

Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-3350-23A 18-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 2,200 hp (1,641 kW) each

Performance

Maximum speed: 357 mph (310 knots, 575 km/h) at 30,000 ft (9,150 m)

Cruise speed: 290 mph (252 knots, 467 km/h)

Range: 3,800 mi (3,304 nmi, 6,118 km)

Service ceiling: 30,700 ft (9,360 m)

Rate of climb: 1,050 ft/min (5.3 m/s)

Armament

Guns: 10× .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns

Bombs: 20,000 lb (9,100 kg)

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