B-36 Controversy (was Re: Why no B-36 in Korea)

pathology_doc

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Not really "good" pictures, but a quick search makes me think, that the B-36 only rarely showed its full gun
armament.
Pictures from: B-36_01: Meyers K. Jacobsen "Convair B-36 Peacemaker"
B-36_02: squadron/signal N°42 "B-36 in action"
B-36_03 & 04: Meyers K. Jacobsen "Convair B-36 - A Comprehensive History of America's Big Stick"

Maybe interesting the caption of _02, saying, that the cover of the forward turrets was left open during take-off,
as an additional way out in the case of an emergency.
Thanks heaps.

Say hello to a bucketload of drag when you extend those - given the cruising ranges they were going for, no wonder they didn't want them "always out" like on the B-29.

Are those pairs of twin-gun turrets side by side? Certainly looks like it.

I suspect that level of gun armament could have given a fighter a difficult time in rarefied air.
 

Justo Miranda

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The B-36 cost $ 3.6 million each and was vulnerable to MiG-15 attacks.

Not exactly very vulnerable, but over the narrow front of Korea it would clearly be deprived of much of its advantages.


In 1946 the main weapon of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) was the Boeing B-29 bomber, but this model reached the obsolescence when 57 Superfortress were destroyed by MiG-15 Soviet fighters during the Korean War.

In 1947 the USAF memorandum ‘Global Strategy Concept’ calling for a new intercontinental bomber able to perform nuclear attacks against the Soviet Union if the Red Army invaded Western Europe.

In June 1948, the Convair B-36, a 410,600 pounds (186,000 kg) heavy bomber entered in service. It tripled the gross weight of the B-29 and was able to carry two Mark III atomic bombs and had 8,000 miles (12,900 km) of range.

At the time, the main Soviet air-defense-radar was the American-supplied SCR-270 which were only effective up to 39,360 ft (12,000 m) and the main Soviet interceptor was the Lavochkin La-9 with 35,400 ft (10,792 m) service ceiling.

The B-36 proved that it could fly at 40,000 ft (12,195 m) over the Soviet air space without being intercepted and the Truman Administration ordered the construction of 386 machines under the Cold War policy of nuclear deterrence.

Unfortunately for the SAC the Soviet fighter MiG-15A, with 50,840 ft (15,500 m) ceiling was delivered to operational units early 1949, followed by the MiG-17 (15,850 m) late in 1953, the MiG-19S (17,900 m) and the MiG-19 PM (17,000 m) armed with four K-5MS Akali air-to-air missiles in 1957. The B-36 served for only ten years.
 

Zoo Tycoon

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Say hello to a bucketload of drag when you extend those - given the cruising ranges they were going for, no wonder they didn't want them "always out" like on the B-29.

I suspect that level of gun armament could have given a fighter a difficult time in rarefied air.

Although these might look potent, they’re only of any use if they successfully deploy, come to life when required and then retract. A single failure in piece of the mechanism/system during deployment the aircraft is defenceless. Even if it deploys, is successfully used, because of the excess drag, it’s got to successfully retract as well. I don’t know if system redundancy was practiced at this time but I suspect not.

The basic architecture is based on desperation and the belief that although a fraction of the assets will be lost to attrition, some will get through.
 

Birdog357

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Also: There would be considerable work converting the B-36 to iron bomb delivery,
I don't think this would be the case. I have on the desk in front of me, the excellent book "Magnesium Overcast" by Dennis Jenkins. On page 144 he has diagrams from the USAF's "SAC B-36 Gunnery Manual" showing multiple different iron bomb loading diagrams, all the way up to the 43,000# T-12. The B-36 was built, first and foremost, as a conventional heavy bomber. Nuclear carriage came a little later. All you have to do to load iron, is drop the nuclear racks and install the proper iron racks to the hard points in the bay. When the nuclear capability was added to the B-36, they could initially only carry a single weapon in the first bay. There are 4 bays total, which implies that the other bays would have been left configured for iron bombs.

Back to the original question of the thread: during the Korean conflict, the B-36 fleet was in continual flux. Adding more nuke capability to the aircraft, changing avionics, and so forth. That would have to have been a contribution to it not seeing combat. The B-29s were a frozen, and plentiful design.
 

archipeppe

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If I remember well the original B-36 requirement was a sorta of "Hemisphere Bomber" to allow U.S. to bomb Nazi Germany from its own territory in the unfortunate circumstance of U.K. fall.
This would explain the outsanding operational range and its capability as conventional bomber from the birth.

The nuclear device usage came after even because at the time of first Consolidated design the whole Project Manhattan was still deep black.
 

Archibald

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The requirement for such a bomber from 1934 resulted in the Boeing XB-15 (not terribly good) then the even larger XB-19 (a bit better but too early) and finally, the B-36 (third time was the charm). The RFP dated from 1940-41 - so long before the A-bomb - at the dawn of the Manhattan project, TBH. As Archipeppe said - bomb Germany from America and back. And very ironically - the reverse requirement of Ju-390, Me-264 and Ta-400.
 

Dilandu

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If I remember well the original B-36 requirement was a sorta of "Hemisphere Bomber" to allow U.S. to bomb Nazi Germany from its own territory in the unfortunate circumstance of U.K. fall.
This would explain the outsanding operational range and its capability as conventional bomber from the birth.

Yep, they were.
 

EwenS

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The nuclear device usage came after even because at the time of first Consolidated design the whole Project Manhattan was still deep black.
AIUI the first nuclear capable B-36 were the B-36B which didn’t reach front line units until late 1948.

In 1948 the number of B-29 Silverplate nuclear bombers had fallen to about 30 due to attrition. In that year more B-29 and B-50 nuclear conversions were ordered alongside the B-36. But in 1950 the US nuclear arsenal was only c300 bombs.
 

Archibald

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The nuclear device usage came after even because at the time of first Consolidated design the whole Project Manhattan was still deep black.
AIUI the first nuclear capable B-36 were the B-36B which didn’t reach front line units until late 1948.

In 1948 the number of B-29 Silverplate nuclear bombers had fallen to about 30 due to attrition. In that year more B-29 and B-50 nuclear conversions were ordered alongside the B-36. But in 1950 the US nuclear arsenal was only c300 bombs.

Which makes Curtiss Lemay development of SAC up to 1956 even more astonishing. In 1948 it was a pathetic force, it 1956 it had enough firepower to blow the planet... too many times. :D

The number of B-47s built (2032 !), compared to Tu-16 / H-6 (ok, in the 1600 range) and V-bombers (350), was truly enormous.
 

Antonio

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Although there's a dim relationship to the 1930's planned development of ever-larger bombers, the B-36 was the winner design for a very heavy bomber with intercontinental reach request from early 1941. There was real concern about Great Britain might be defeated. Japan homeland attacks only from very long distances was also a possibility. Once the War turned favorable to the Allies, program lagged because more immediate ones demanded resources. But just after the War ended, the need for intercontinental attacks should be considered again. Being an obsolescent design, that prevented B-36 from cancellation. In the new atomic bomb era, it was also capable to accept the then still large special bombs without problem.

Source: American Bomber Aircraft Development in WW2 by Bill Norton

So, the B36 was designed to a role far different form Korea war theater and it was committed to it, at that time. It was obvious, to me, not to divert it from that mission when it could be needed after a local war at risk to escale into an open war with the USSR.

The intercontinental WW2 B36 could be considered as an interim solution after the design for a intercontinental Cold War bomber was already launched by 1944

Source: The B-52 competition of 1946 by Jared A. Zichek

And now waiting for
Boeing B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress: Origins and Evolution by Scott Lowther

 

Birdog357

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I have found some more info that illustrates why the "Big Stick" wasn't used in Korea. In "Magnesium Overcast", the appendices include some fascinating info. The first one is a complete S/N list of all B-36s and the XC-99. In that list it shows that in Jan 1950 only 88 airframes had been accepted by the USAF. That number includes several prototype and test aircraft. The first 24 were A models and the X and Y airframes, all of which weren't even combat capable until they were rebuilt into E models from mid 1949 to mid 1951. The next bit of info I found was a chart that lists the timelines of the first 95 aircraft from 1946 through 1953, which is exactly the time period we are most interested in. That chart shows that for a substantial period of time during the 3 year period of the war, major portions of the fleet were either not built yet, or were being modified from one configuration to another. The 95th aircraft did not even reach service until mid 1950. Of those 95 aircraft, 7 were written off between 1949 and mid 1952. A total of 32 (out of 385 built) were written off before the type was withdrawn from service
 

Joemitchell3

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Re: Why no B-36 in Korea

F-14D said:
The fact that it wasn't was the relevant issue because USAF's contention that they used to lobby to kill the United States was that with the B-36 carriers wouldn't be needed, and that the B-36 would fly too high to be seriously threatened by fighters ("Pay no attention to that Banshee flying formation off your wing").

You mean those staged photographs at much lower altitudes than normal, with the B-36's 20mm turrets deployed and trained on the banshees?

Nevermind that in order to actually get a Banshee up to 45,000+ feet to "prove" the B-36 was interceptable; the navy had to strip it of everything, including guns.

And even if the fighter got up there, the B-36 could outmanouver it.
 
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