Let us introduce our reader today with the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker which was the strategic bomber aircraft that was built by the company named CONVAIR to serve the USAF (United States Air Force) back in the late 1940s. The aircraft entered the service of USAF back in 1949 officially and saw it getting retired back in 1959. The CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker happens to be the largest piston-engine aircraft that was ever built and mass-produced.
The aircraft boasted a wingspan which was largest than any of the other combat aircraft at 230 feet. the title of being the first bomber to wield the nuclear weapons for the US also goes to CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker. The aircraft would carry the nuclear weapons from its 4 internal bombing bays without a need for modifications. The aircraft offered a range of nearly 10000 miles while carrying a maximum payload weighing about 39600 kilograms. The CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker was the first of its type to complete an intercontinental flight without the need for refueling.
After it entered the service, the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker went on to be the main delivery vehicle for nuclear weapons for the SAC (Strategic Air Command) before getting replaced by the jet-powered aircraft named Boeing B-52 Stratofortress in 1955. All of the aircraft were scrapped but still, 5 of them were left.
The initial design for the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker was started up by the USAAC (United States Army Air Corps) back in 1941 for the development of a large-sized and intercontinental strategic bomber which could be capable of taking off from the locations within the US and deliver the bombing payload to enemy targets located in Europe. This bomber design and the project were started in the worst-case scenario if Britain would fall into the hands of the German forces; leaving the US without any allies in Europe.
This is why the work in the design and development of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker continued throughout World War II and the result was the prototype designated as XB-36 which was the first completed prototype of that program. The aircraft was able to fly for the first time back on 8th August 1946 while it was powered by 6 of the Pratt & Whitney R-4360-25 radial piston engines.
After the development of the XB-36 unit of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker, CONVAIR developed the YB-36 model which featured a refined cockpit and nose section with the sturdier undercarriage. Then the next variant was the RB-36E which was the reconnaissance variant. As for the main variant that saw mass production, it was designated as B-36A which was still only used for training purposes.
Then came the B-36B variant model which was the armed unit and nearly 73 units of it were manufactured. Another great variant of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker was the model RB-36B which was fitted with state of the art camera equipment for using it as a photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
The B-36B model of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker was the one that was fitted with defensive armaments which included fitting the aircraft with 2 of the 20mm cannons in its nose, 2 of the 20mm cannons in the tail section, and 2 of the 20mm cannons each across 6 of the fuselage barbette; thus making 16 cannons in total.
As for the maximum payload that the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker was able to carry was about 86000lbs but the aircraft was normally used to carry about 72000lbs of munition payload. After the US disclosed its Nuclear Program, the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker was used for carrying the nuclear weapons.
A single one of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker aircraft was powered by 6 Pratt & Whitney R-4360-41 air-cooled radial piston engines. Each of these engines would generate a power of 3500HP to drive the three-bladed 6 propeller units. For giving the aircraft an additional thrust, the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker was also fitted with 4 of the General Electric’s J47-GE-19 turbojet engines.
The aircraft was able to fly at its top speed of about 439 mph for a combat radius of about 7500 miles. As for the ferry range of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker, it was recorded to be about 10000 miles without a need of getting refueled. The service ceiling of the aircraft was 45000 feet with rate-of-climb being 2000 ft/min.
Used only by USAF:-
The main variants that were sued by the USAF were the GRB-36, XC-99, and RB-36 that remained in the service of the SAC (Strategic Air Command) from the year 1948 to 1959. The variant model RB-36 was used by the SAC for the photo-reconnaissance role during the US’s Cold War with the Soviet Union. As for the bomber variants of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker, they were used mostly for training or test operations and were kept on the ground and airborne alert conditions. The later variants of the aircraft were never used offensively against the enemy forces; in fact, they never even shot a single fire.
Used in military experiments:-
The CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker was also used by the military in their various aeronautical experiments throughout the service of the aircraft. The aircraft was a massive help and a resource in the research and development programs of the military due to its large size, massive range and its high payload bearing capacity.
The aircraft was used for the nuclear propulsion studies as well as in the parasite programs, during which the aircraft was used for carrying a small interceptor or the reconnaissance aircraft. From the time the production started nearly 384 units of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker were manufactured in all its variant forms.
Replacement and Retirement:-
By the time it was February 1959, the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker saw its service come to an end officially. The aircraft was succeeded in its service for the USAF and SAC by the line of Boeing B-47 Stratojet aircraft. All of the remaining units of the B-36 were scraped expect 5 of them. These 5 units of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker are being kept in the museums as showpieces.