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  • CONVAIR XB-46 Jet-Powered Medium Bomber Prototype

    The CONVAIR XB-46 Medium Bomber was an American response to the arrival - and success - of the German wartime Arado Ar 234 Blitz jet-powered bomber.

     Updated: 4/26/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    American authorities were not blind to the advances in military combat aircraft being made by the Germans during World War 2- particularly in their operational use of the Arado Ar 234 "Blitz" jet-powered bomber. The system, introduced during September of 1944, was fast enough to out-fly ground-based defenses as well as airborne interceptors and was used in both the traditional bomber role as well as fast reconnaissance. 210 of the type were produced before war's end but not nearly enough to make an impact on Germany's worsening fortunes during the conflict.

    With that said, there was born an initiative on the part of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) to provide an all-modern, high-flying jet-powered medium bomber capable of reaching out to 1,000 miles and carrying a considerable war load. This prompted responses from the usual industry players of which Boeing, CONVAIR, Martin and North American proved the most notable. Respectively, the designs became XB-47, XB-46 (CONVAIR "Model 109"), XB-48, and XB-45 with only the XB-45 seeing serial production as the B-45 "Tornado" and XB-47 outshining them all as the production-minded B-47 "Stratojet".

    In January of 1945, as World War 2 still raged in Europe and the Pacific, a mockup by CONVAIR was approved and a contract order for three prototypes followed in February. At the same time, the company was furthering another attack platform - the XA-44 (becoming the "XB-53" some time later) - and this played poorly into USAAF plans as its post-war defense budget was reeled in during the worldwide military drawdown that followed the surrender of Japan in August (1945). While the advanced, forward-swept-wing XA-44 was favored over the XB-46, both were allowed to continue along their respective development paths albeit through some revision of both product lines between CONVAIR and the USAAF: funding of two of the proposed XB-46 prototypes now became funding for two XA-44 prototypes. The USAAF ultimately rebranded in 1947 to become the United States Air Force (USAF).

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    CONVAIR XB-46 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1947
    Type: Jet-Powered Medium Bomber Prototype
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): CONVAIR - USA
    Production Total: 1

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 3
    Length: 105.81 feet (32.25 meters)
    Width: 113.02 feet (34.45 meters)
    Height: 27.89 feet (8.50 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 48,116 lb (21,825 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 95,802 lb (43,455 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 4 x Allison J35-A-3 turbojet engines developing 4,000lb of thrust each.

    Maximum Speed: 544 mph (875 kph; 472 knots)
    Maximum Range: 2,871 miles (4,620 km)
    Service Ceiling: 40,026 feet (12,200 meters; 7.58 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 1,845 feet-per-minute (562 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    2 x 0.50 caliber Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) for local defense.

    Up to 22,000lb of conventional drop stores.

    Global Operators / Customers

    United States (cancelled)

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    XB-46 - Base Series Designation; sole prototype completed.