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    Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Long Range Transport Aircraft

    The often overshadowed Curtiss C-46 Commando superseded the Douglas DC-3 transports.

     Updated: 5/1/2015; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    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 (United States Army Air Forces) 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.

    Curtiss-Wright C-46A Commando Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1942
    Type: Long Range Transport Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Curtiss-Wright - USA
    Production Total: 3,200

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 4
    Length: 76.44 feet (23.3 meters)
    Width: 78.54 feet (23.94 meters)
    Height: 21.75 feet (6.63 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 30,001 lb (13,608 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 55,997 lb (25,400 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 Double Wasp 18-cylinder radial engines developing 2,000 horsepower each.

    Maximum Speed: 269 mph (433 kph; 234 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,199 miles (1,930 km)
    Service Ceiling: 27,559 feet (8,400 meters; 5.22 miles)

    Armament / Mission Payload


    Global Operators / Customers

    United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    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.

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