Consolidated Vultee Model 32 B-24 Liberator
Type: Heavy long-range strategic bombers.
With production totaling 18,482 units, the B-24 Liberator was the most numerous U.S. combat type of WW2. The B-24 served in the thick of the fighting on every front and in a variety of roles, including bombing, maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and transport. But the type’s major contribution was as a bomber, especially in the Pacific. In three years of operations B-24s dropped some 635,000 tons of bombs and downed 4,189 enemy aircraft. Although crews preferred the B-17 Fortress because it was less vulnerable, the Liberator proved to be an excellent and versatile combat aircraft. Apart from Consolidated, several other companies built Liberators. A total of 1,694 were delivered directly to the Royal Air Force for service with Coastal and Bomber Commands.
The preliminary studies which gave rise to the B-24 began early in 1939, when the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was asked by the U.S. Army Air Corps for a new heavy bomber. What was required was a more modern aircraft with better speed, range and altitude performance than the Boeing B-17 Fortress, which was already in production.
Head designer Isaac M. Laddon settled on a high-wing monoplane with twin fins and rudders. The wing was certainly the most original and advanced feature of the Laddon design. Consolidated had recently begun to incorporate Davis laminar-flow contours into its designs, and did not hesitate to apply these advances to the new bomber. The Liberator’s high-aspect-ratio wing conferred an impressive payload, climb and range performance.
A contract signed on March 30, 1939, called for a full-size model and a prototype; the latter first took to the air on December 29 of that year. The new bomber had a deep fuselage and a large bomb bay with sliding doors. The undercarriage was unusual for the time: a tricycle arrangement in which the main gear retracted into the wing. The type was originally powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 engines with two-stage mechanical superchargers, subsequently replaced by exhaust-driven turbo-superchargers.
Seven pre-production examples were built, followed in 1940 by a first order for 36 aircraft. Only nine of these were built, the rest being produced as B-24Cs. The B-24C had turbo-supercharged Pratt&Whitney R-1830s, which necessitated structural modifications to the engine nacelles. The armament was also increased. The first significant version, however, was the B-24D, for which large orders were received in 1940. Further orders brought total production of this variant up to 2,738 units. Such was the demand for the B-24 that the original production facilities had to be expanded.
Consolidated built B-24s at San Diego and then added a second assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas. Beginning with the B-24D, Douglas, Ford and North American also built Liberators.
Beginning in April 1942, the B-24D was the first Liberator to go into combat. Most of the Liberator’s early combat career centered in the Middle East and Pacific theaters. The next version was the B-24E, which bad different engines and propellers. Then came the B-24G. Beginning with the 26th B-24G, a substantial modification was introduced. A mechanically operated nose turret was installed, thus providing extra defense against frontal attack, to which the B-24 had been particularly vulnerable. This arrangement was standard in all subsequent versions.
A total of 3,100 B-24Hs were produced by Consolidated, Convair, Douglas and Ford. 1943 saw the appearance of the most numerous B-24 variant, the B-24J with new engine controls, a new bomb sight and changes in the fuel and control systems. The final versions, the B-24L and B-24M, had improvements in armament. By May 31, 1945, totals of 1,667 Ls and 2,593 Ms had been built.
Among the more important experimental variants and conversions of the B-24 were the photographic-reconnaissance F-7; the C-87 transport; the AT22, a flying classroom for navigator training; and the C-1O9 transport/tanker. The Liberator XB-41, a B-24D modified in 1942 for service as a heavy bomber escort, never got beyond the prototype stage. It carried fourteen 12.7 mm machine guns.
Users: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, France, India, Italy (CB), New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Soviet Union, Turkey, UK, U.S.A.
Animated 3D model of B-24 J Liberator
Specifications for Consolidated B-24 D Liberator
|Consolidated B-24 D Liberator||specification|
|Power plant||4 x 1,200hp Pratt&Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp, 14-cylinder radial, air-cooled|
|Accommodation||8 - 10|
|Wing span||110 ft|
|Length overall||66 ft 4 in|
|Height overall||17 ft 11 in|
|Weight empty||35,000 lb|
|Weight loaded||60,000 lb|
|Max level speed||303 mph|
|at height||25,000 ft|
|Initial climb||900 ft/min|
|Service ceiling||32,000 ft|
|Range||2,850 miles (with 5,000 lb bomb load)|
|Consolidated B-24 D Liberator||specification|
|Weapon turrets||3 electrically operated turrets (Martin turret dorsal, Briggs-Sperry retractable ventral 'ball' and Consolidated or Motor Products tail) each with 2 x 0.50 Browning MGs (1100 rpm, velocity 2500 ft.sec)|
|Single guns||2 x single 0.50 Browning MGs in manual waist positions and one manual MG in nose|
|Bomb load||2 bomb bays with roll-up doors with vertical racks on each side of central catwalk for up to 8,800 lb of bombs|
|Consolidated B-24 Liberator||figures|
|First flight (prototype)||29 December 1939|
|Service delivery (B-24C)||March 1941|
|Combat service (B-24D)||April 1942|
|Production delivery (B-24J)||August 1943|
|Termination of production||31 May 1945|
|Unit cost||$ 297,627|
|Total production figure||2,738 (B-24D), 18,482 (B24 C-M), 19,203 (with R2Y transports) plus 1,800 aircraft delivered as spares|
|Number of US Sorties, Europe 42-45||226,775|
|US Bomb Tonnage, Europe 42-45||452,508 t|
|US Lost in Combat, Europe 42-45||3,626|
|Enemies US claimed destroyed, Europe 42-45||2,617|