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.
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.