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  • Douglas A-26 / B-26 Invader Medium Bomber / Heavy Attack Aircraft

    The Douglas A-26 Invader ultimately proved a success in World War 2, the Korean War, and the early stages of the Vietnam Conflict.

     Updated: 4/3/2017; Authored By Dan Alex; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The Douglas A-26 Invader was a distinguished twin-engine light bomber whose origins were well-placed in the Second World War. The system proved adept at day and night flying, attacking targets with a bevy of machine guns or drop bombs and operating at low and medium altitudes with equal success. The type was fielded throughout the conflict in both Pacific and European theaters and went on to see action in the global wars to follow including Korea, Indo-China and Vietnam. In the end, the Invader served American forces for some twenty years before being officially retired and removed from service - such was the reach of this magnificent airplane.


    With design beginning as early as 1940, the Invader was first flown on July 10th, 1942 as the XA-26 pre-production prototype. The XA-26 appeared as a successor to the Douglas A-20 Havoc, an aircraft of similar role and design layout and featured a glass nose and 5,000 of internal and external ordnance capability. Armament consisted of 2 x 12.7mm forward-mounted machine guns and a remote-control periscope-fired dorsal and ventral barbette, each with 2 x 12.7mm machine guns (an arrangement very similar to the production A-26C models). A mockup was completed and showcased in early 1941 with the contract finalized in June of that year. The contract originally called for just two prototype aircraft types that included the XA-26 light attack bomber and the XA-26A dedicated night attack fighter.

    The resulting tests revealed some structural issues with the nose landing gear - it proving prone to collapse - and, as such, the component was redesigned. Other modifications centered on engine overheating to which the original propeller spinners (intended to promote streamlining of the aircraft) were removed for improved cooling airflow and the engine cowlings were redesigned for better performance. Overall, the tests proved the aircraft design sound and capable of great speed. Handling was regarded as above average and very responsive. What made the XA-26 unique was its single pilot cockpit, not requiring the need for a dedicated co-pilot and thusly keeping the fuselage a slender shape ala the Northrop P-61 Black Widow and Douglas A-20 Havoc. The XA-26 was ordered by the USAAF with the series designation of A-26 and consisted of several major variants, though no A-26A production model existed. Production of the A-26 series progressed slowly as most of Douglas' plants were tied to previous contract aircraft production. As such, the A-26 would have to wait until 1944 to see any complete forms.

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    Douglas A-26B Invader Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1944
    Type: Medium Bomber / Heavy Attack Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Douglas Aircraft Corporation - USA
    Production Total: 2,452

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 3
    Length: 50.59 feet (15.42 meters)
    Width: 70.01 feet (21.34 meters)
    Height: 18.50 feet (5.64 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 22,370 lb (10,147 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 35,001 lb (15,876 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 18-cylinder radial engines developing 2,000 horsepower each.

    Maximum Speed: 355 mph (571 kph; 308 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,300 miles (2,092 km)
    Service Ceiling: 22,096 feet (6,735 meters; 4.18 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 1,250 feet-per-minute (381 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    6 OR 8 x 12.7mm machine guns in forward-fixed nose assembly
    2 x 12.7mm machine guns in remote-controlled dorsal barbette.
    2 x 12.7mm machine guns in remote-controlled ventral barbette.

    2 x 12.7mm machine guns in nose position
    6 x 12.7mm machine guns in wings
    2 x 12.7mm machine guns in remote-controlled dorsal barbette.
    2 x 12.7mm machine guns in remote-controlled ventral barbette.

    Up to 4,000lbs of internal ordnance with a further 8,000 of under wing ordnance held externally.

    4 x dual 12.7mm machine gun "packs" underwing (two-guns per pack for a total of eight possible underwing gun positions).
    8 OR 14 x 5" rockets
    2 x bombs held under wing
    2 x fuel tanks held under wing

    Global Operators / Customers

    Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Cuba; Dominican Republic; El Salvador; France; Guatemala; Indonesia; Laos; Nicaragua; Peru; Portugal; Saudi Arabia; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    XA-26 - Prototype

    XA-26A - Two-Seat Prototype Night-Fighter

    XA-26B - Three-Seat Attack Variant with solid nose assembly housing 1 x 75mm cannon.

    A-26B - Attack Bomber Variant; two blocks produced with 6 and 8 x 12.7mm machine guns in solid nose.

    TB-26B - Unarmed Conversion Trainer based on A-26B models.

    VB-26B - Staff Transport Conversion Models of A-26B airframes.

    A-26C - Attack Bomber Variant with glassed-in nose for bombardier; 2 x 12.7mm machine guns in nose position.

    RB-26C - Unarmed Reconnaissance Model based on A-26C models.

    TB-26C - Unarmed Conversion Trainer based on A-26C models.

    XA-26D - Proposed Prototype Attack Bomber; fitted with R-2800-83 produced at Chevy plants; 8 x 12.7mm machine guns in solid nose; 6 x 12.7mm machine guns in wings (3 to a wing).

    XA-26E - Prototype Attack Bomber; similar to XA-26D prototype but with glassed0in nose ala A-26C models.

    XA-26F - Proposed High-Speed Prototype; four-bladed propellers; 2 x R-2800-83 engines of 2,100 horsepower; 1 x General Electric J-31 turbojet in rear fuselage.

    A-26Z - Proposed Post-war Production A-26's; unofficial designation; would have been fitted with 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial engines; redesigned cockpit canopy; wingtip droptanks.

    A-26G - Proposed Solid Nose Version of A-26Z

    A-26H - Proposed Glassed-in Version of A-26Z

    JD-1 - US Navy designation of A-26B and A-26C models as target tugs; later redesignated to UB-26J in 1962.

    JD-1D - US Navy designation of A-26B and A-26C models as drone directors; redesignated to DB-26J in 1962.

    YB-26K - Attack Bomber Prototype of modified A-26 aircraft handled by On Mark Engineering Company; dual cockpit controls; wingtip fuel tanks; R-2800-103W series engines; reversible propellers; reinforced wings and fuselage; larger-surface vertical fin; improved avionics; 6 x 12.7mm machine guns in wings (3 to a wing); 8 x 12.7mm machine guns in solid nose.

    B-26K "Counter Invader" - Production YB-26K models by On Mark Engineering Company; 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-52W engines of 2,500 horsepower; 6 x 12.7mm wing machine guns removed; redesignated to A-26A.

    RB-26L - Night Photo Reconnaissance Models; 2 examples.

    B-26N - Unofficial Designation of French Air Force B-26C models; fitted with AI Mk X radar and 2 x underwing gun pods with 2 x 12.7mm machine guns to each pod (4x total); SNEB series rockets optional.