Consolidated B-32 Dominator Four-Engine Heavy Bomber
The Consolidated B-32 Dominator was a fail-safe heavy bomber design requested by the U.S. air service in the case that the Boeing B-29 Superfortress was not yet ready to go.
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Consolidated Aircraft Corporation held an existing relationship with the United States military in delivering large, multi-engined bomber types - its most classic of the World War 2 designs became the PBY "Catalina" flying boat aircraft that found much success throughout the conflict. With the development of the Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" heavy bomber ongoing during the war, all of the United States Army Air Force (formerly the United States Army Air Corps) eggs were seemingly placed into this basket so a move was made to develop another heavy bomber alongside it should the Boeing product not deliver in the timeframe expected. The USAAC approached Consolidated to bridge the gap and this work begat the Consolidated "Model 33" aircraft.
Consolidated engineers returned with a very modern heavy bomber design utilizing all that was learned in the development and operation of the B-24 Liberator heavies and their flying boats prior. A tubular, well-streamlined fuselage was selected with a glazed-over nose section and stepped cockpit with good views from within. Wings were high-mounted along the sides of the fuselage and each carried two radial piston engine in underslung nacelles. The empennage saw the fuselage taper in the normal way to which a twin-finned rudder assembly was arranged along individual supporting horizontal planes at rear - similar to the tail unit as seen in the preceding B-24. The engines - massive Wright R-3350 models of 2,200 horsepower output each - were the same as slated for the upcoming B-29. As the new Consolidated heavy was to operate at high altitudes for its bombing role, the aircraft was to be fully pressurized requiring a dedicated onboard system. No fewer than fourteen defensive machine guns were envisioned to help protect aircraft and crew - with guns fitted to remote-controlled, retractable turret installations directed by periscope viewing.
Content with the proposal, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) signed on for a pair of XB-32 prototypes. As completed, these prototypes lacked many of the features that would appear on the standardized production form including the pressurization system and the full slew of machine gun armament. Problems with engine cooling and leaks proved common which only served to delay the aircraft during development while progress proved an equally labored venture on the competing B-29 product. The XB-32 first flew on September 7th, 1942 but was lost in a crash the following year.
The second prototype followed and this time a large, rounded single vertical tail fin was fitted - its shape similar to that as seen in the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" and upcoming B-29 lines. The pressurization issues led to the aircraft being now relegated to the low-to-medium altitude bombing role which allowed engineers to drop the troublesome feature altogether. Problems also persisted with the intended remote-controlled armament and these too were nixed - in their place were conventional, manned, power-operated turrets instead. The second XB-32 followed into the air on November 3rd, 1943.