Vega Bomber escort aircraft studies


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From Bill Slyton's "The Lockheed that never were" Part III. Journal of American Aviation Historical Society, Fall 1999.

Courtesy of Lark

Under number V-139, Vega converted one B-17F into XB-40 "bomber escort fighter". It was an attempt to provide a heavily armed escort for bomber formations but the B-17 was not the best aircraft to this role. When the standard B-17 bombers returned home without bombs, the XB-40 can't match their cruise speed.

Vega studied then several designs under number V-140 but none of it left the drawing board because the P-51 avoided the need for such an specialised aircraft.


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Au contraire One XB-40 and a small number of YB-40s were built, flown, and tested. It was in flight testing that the drawback in cruise speed after "bombs away" was found. A similar conversion, with similar results, was done on a B-24 airframe to produce the XB-41; as far as I know, the only operational use of hte XB-41 was to take out a captured P-38 that the Regia Aeronautica was using to ambush damaged B-24s.

The only good thing to come out of the XB-40 wprogram was the chin turret that was adopted for the B-17G.
A similar conversion, with similar results, was done on a B-24 airframe to produce the XB-41

Thanks for the info, Evan, I'm going to take a look into my sources for a XB-41 pic
Well, here it is ;D

and this about the XB-40

In the spring of 1943, the 327th Bomb Squadron of the 92nd Bomb Group, RAF Alconbury, was assigned 12 YB-40s for operational combat tests. The first mission was flown on May 29, 1943, and after less than 10 missions the aircraft were withdrawn from service

As you wrote the XB-40 was built and flown operationally but the subject of my post was the Vega V-140 series which remained on the drawing board
You wonder, though, how much of the work on the V-140, and on the XFM-2 proposal, ended up being used as a database for the P2V Neptune proposal. Certainly the wing planform looks similar to the V-140 and the pictures that appeared in Wings/Airpower showed the nose of the XFM-2 mockup to be very similar to that of the P2V-1 in contours.
Hay Elmayerle

Could you post the picture or drawing of the XFM-2 please

Hi Pioneer,

this is what you're looking for ;) (courtesy of Lark)

The XFM-2 was based upon the Lockheed 10 Electra. Competition with Bell XFM-1 was extremely close, only six tenths of a point. Bell's design won because it was better considered to be superior suited for the mission because Lockheed's design was handicapped in trying to adapt an existing airframe while the XFM-1 was designed from a clear sheet of paper.


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Thanks Pometablava (and Lark) for your efforts in posting the pic of the XFM-2

The Electra design looks a lot cleaner with in-line engines!

Thankfully the Yanks came to their sensors in time, with this Bomber Escort concept.
For the German Bf-109 and the Bf-110 would have made mince meat out of them, and then some

The story of the "convoy escort" bombers, as they were known in the USAAF, is much more complicated and involved than has been revealed to date. This will be rectified.

One thing that is either unknown or ignored is that the whole concept of the Convoy Bomber Escort was British in origin. Then, when the U.S. finally came out with them they were thoroughly criticized by the British - who didn't like the concept of a daylight bombing anyway.

It is just as well that the Heavy Fighter/Bomber destroyer programs were such failures. All they would have done is provide German single-engined fighters with more kills.

Re: XB-41

The XB-41 was never used operationally. The event referred to by elmayerle is recounted in Martin Caidin's book on the P-38 IIRC, and it was a YB-40 that was used.

The XB-41 was a complete and utter failure, being even more sluggish, slower and harder to handle than the regular B-24. The closest the XB-41 got to a combat theater was weapons testing at Eglin AFB, Florida.

ACResearcher, I concur - although I thought the books was Caidin's "Flying Forts". I vaguely recall that the kill was completed using the pilot's single fixed forward-firing .50-cal!!!
Martin Caidin

You could very well be correct about the Caidin book. While I remember reading the story, I wouldn't even want to guess how many decades ago it was!

I'm in the process of researching the B-40 missions. The very first mission on May 29, 1943 saw the loss of one of the 8 aircraft sent and three others ran out of fuel and had to land at other bases in England. NOT an auspicious start.

Re: Vega Bomber escort aircraft studies / XB-41

Just found at SDASM Archives Flickr's site.



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