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Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Long Range Transport Aircraft (1942)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 5/2/2011

The often overshadowed C-46 Commando superceded the Douglas DC-3 transports.

The United States Air Force utilized the C-46 Commando series as their primary transport workhorse in the Pacific Theater of War during the Second World War. The system was initiated to replace the Douglas series of DC-3 transports and first appeared in prototype form in March of 1940 as the twin-rudder CW-20T. Design specifications called for the Commando to feature a pressurized cabin for up to 36 combat-ready troops, longer range than anything available to the USAAF and an above average cruising speed.

The CW-20T prototype later evolved into the CW-20A that featured a revised tail in the form of the more recognizable single rudder assembly. Later development focused in on the requirements as put forth by the United States Army Air Corps which put the CW-20A under trials with the designation of C-55, which consequently ordered a production version of the model now designated as the CW-20B.

The CW-20B was redesignated to the more familiar C-46 identification. Final trial models were provisioned to fit up to 45 combat-ready troops and fitted with two Pratt & Whitney-brand R-2800-51 radial engines. The C-46 entered service with the plain designation of simply "C-46" in the Pacific Theater - and used almost exclusively there up until about March of 1945, to which the Commando would be seen across the European Theater as well. From its initial acceptance into service with the USAAF, the C-46 system would become the heaviest aircraft in that branch of service and make a name for itself as a true warrior workhorse, transplanting troops and cargo alike, across battlefields and beyond.

Variants abound with the C-46 Commando. The United States Navy utilized a designation of R5C for their own Commando version with 160 models of the R5C-1 going to the United States Marine Corps. Specialized utility and troop models would be produced from the hundreds to the thousands. The C-46A Commando itself could carry up to 50 infantrymen and load/unload cargo through a large cargo door on the port side of the aircraft.

The C-46 was officially retired from service in 1968, replaced by the equally effective C-130 series of transports.

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Specifications for the
Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando
Long Range Transport Aircraft

Focus Model: Curtiss-Wright C-46A Commando
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1942
Production: 3,200

Crew: 4

Length: 76.44 ft (23.3 m)
Width: 78.54 ft (23.94 m)
Height: 21.75ft (6.63 m)
Weight (Empty): 30,001 lb (13,608 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 55,997 lb (25,400 kg)

Powerplant: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 Double Wasp 18-cylinder radial engines generating 2,000hp of thrust each.

Maximum Speed: 269 mph (433 kmh; 234 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,199 miles (1,930 km)
Service Ceiling: 27,559 ft (8,400 m; 5.2 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet-per-minute (0 m/min)

Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:

CW-20T - Twin-Finned Prototype Model

CW-20A - Converted from the CW-20T Prototype Model; revised tail unit now featured single rudder fin assembly; flattened tailplane halves.

C-55 - US Army Air Corps evaluation designation of the CW-20A model.

CW-20B - US Army Air Corps militarized order production model of the CW-20A/C-55 evaluation model; redesignated to the C-46.

C-46 - Curtiss Model CW-20B based on the CW-20B.

C-46A - Improved and definitive C-46 model; 1,493 produced; fitted with R-2800-51 radial engines; reinforced fuselage flooring; accommodations for up to 50 troops; large port-side loading/unloading door.

XC-46B - Stepped windshield

XC-46C - Became C-46G, then XC-113

C-46D - Improved C-46A; troop transport; double-door model with modified nose assembly.

C-46E - Single Door Model; 17 produced.

C-46F - Improved C-46A; utility transport; 234 produced.

C-46G - XC-46C model

XC-113 - C-46G model

R5C - United States Navy Model

R5C-1 - United States Marine Corps Model; 160 produced.

United States