Martin B-26 Marauder Medium Bomber Aircraft
After some early setbacks, the Martin B-26 Marauder became a USAAF stalwart and operated with distinction as a medium bomber during World War 2.
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The Martin B-26 Marauder overcame a rocky start to become one of the finest medium bombers of World War 2. The aircraft was designed with speed from the outset and, as such, a few problems emerged from that approach. The Marauder went on to amount an impressive service record and faded from service almost as soon as it had arrived. Nevertheless, the B-26 proved a capable aircraft in the hands of a trained pilot - and a trained pilot would be required to fly the type to its fullest potential considering the amount of knowledge needed to keep the needy bird airborne.
January of 1939 saw the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) issue a new requirement for a long-range light-to-medium bomber of considerable speed with the capability to mount at least 2,000lbs of ordnance. The Glen L. Martin Company entered the competition with their B-26 Marauder (then known as the Glen L. Martin 179) design and successfully obtained an initial order for 200 B-26's without so much as a single prototype let alone pre-production aircraft. The considerably deteriorating situation in Europe and in the Pacific necessitated the need for speed in production of such a design and thusly the B-26 was put to the assembly lines in little time (covering just two years from paper to working model). Within 12 months, the first B-26 was ready and made her first flight on November 25th, 1940 while 1,131 B-26A and B-26B models were already delivered.
The B-26 design was driven by the simple factor of pure speed. This was accomplished by selecting rather large, powerful engines and incorporating a small wing area with high wing loading. This produced an airframe that surpassed the USAAC requirements and then some, but provided for an aircraft with deadly-fast take-off and landing speeds and generally poor handling at lower speeds. In fact, landing speeds were between 120 and 135 miles per hour increasing the chances of damage to the airframe or injuries and fatalities to the crew substantially. Speeds became such a concern that the aircraft soon earned the nickname of "Widowmaker" due to at least one speed-related accident early on. As such, special military boards met to decide the fate of the Marauder project as a whole, grounding the aircraft in April of 1941 and instituting a few modifications in an effort to keep the type flying. This resulted in a B-26 with an increased wing area and redesigned taller vertical tail fin. Additionally, the Martin-produced powered dorsal turret had yet to be installed on previous models, leading to an imbalance of weight across the airframe, adding to the instability of the aircraft at lower speeds (effectively producing a stall on arrival).