Douglas XTB2D Skypirate Prototype Heavy Torpedo Bomber Aircraft
Only two of the proposed Douglas XTB2D Skypirate torpedo bombers were built before the project saw cancellation in 1947.
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Throughout World War 2 (1939-1945), the United States Navy pushed its ever-growing stable of carrier-based aircraft to all-new heights, branching from dedicated fighters to include an inventory stocked with versatile fighter-bomber types and even more dedicated, advanced bombing platforms in the dive and torpedo bomber molds. As American carriers grew in size, they were able to accept larger aircraft on their stronger, more spacious decks and one of the most famous of these large aircraft to emerge at the end of the war became the storied Douglas A-1 "Skyraider" of 1946 (detailed elsewhere on this site).
Back in 1942, the Midway-class carrier was in development and this design brought about the flexibility for Navy warplanners to include larger aircraft designs on the planned deck space. Authorities initially approached a design with a twin-engine configuration for the power necessary to undertake the torpedo bomber role with reconnaissance and level bombing capabilities as secondary. The design would be able to carry several torpedoes into battle, broadening the tactical appeal of the torpedo bomber when compared to wartime contemporaries (these limited to a sole torpedo).
During November of 1942, the United States Navy (USN) contracted with Douglas Aircraft Corporation to design, develop, and produce their new bomber. The project received the necessary steam to forge ahead in late October 1943 when a contract was signed for two flyable prototypes (the second to receive a slightly lengthened fuselage) and a static testbed to be designated "XTB2D-1" under the name of "Skypirate".
The twin-engine approach was ultimately dropped as Douglas engineers (a team that included famous American aviation engineer Ed Heinemann) went to work, instead utilizing a single-engine approach of considerable power. This became the Pratt & Whitney XR-4360-8 supercharged radial piston engine of 3,000 horsepower driving a pair of 14.3-foot diameter, four-bladed propeller units in a contra-rotating fashion. An internal bomb bay was part of the original design plans as well while a rear turret would be used to defend against trailing aerial threats. A rather modern tricycle undercarriage was fitted to allow the large blades the necessary clearance while also simplifying ordnance loading/reloading. The nose leg featured a telescoping strut to reduce its length when retracted into its bay as well as a twin-wheel configuration to contend with the rigors of carrier deck service. A three-man crew would operate the various onboard systems and their stations were fully armored for low-altitude combat flying. The tail unit relied on a single, large-area rudder complimented by very low-mounted horizontal planes. This section also carried the arrestor gear.