CONVAIR XA-44 (XB-53) Attack Platform / Medium Bomber Proposal
The CONVAIR XA-44 emerged from World War 2 as a potential attack platform for the USAAF but ended its days a cancelled project as the XB-53 Medium Bomber.
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The period immediately following World War 2 (1939-1945) provided aeronautical engineers with a new chapter in "heavier-than-air" powered flight. The jet age born during the war and progressed at a feverish pace thereafter with many of the wartime participants seeking to perfect turbojet designs and stock their respective air services with the latest combat aircraft. CONVAIR, born in 1943 from the merger between Consolidated and Vultee, went on to present many-a-large aircraft designs during the period - the interesting "XA-44" being one of them.
The XA-44 was born in 1945 as a jet-powered attack platform for consideration by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). Its most unique quality was its forward-swept wing mainplanes which were coupled to a tailless aft section - a sole vertical fin making up the rear surfaces of the aircraft. The mainplanes - angled forward at 30-degrees and influenced by German wartime research - were set aft of midships and shoulder-mounted along a squat yet well-contoured fuselage. The cockpit was fitted forward, aft of a nosecone assembly, in the usual way. It was envisioned that the aircraft would carry a standard operating crew of four.
Engineers opted for a tri-engine configuration involving turbojets and these aspirated through side-mounted intakes. The engine of choice became the General Electric J35 which was expected to provide an output thrust of 4,000lb each unit.
The selection of forward-swept wing mainplanes was not a groundbreaking initiative for the time - indeed the Germans researched such a jet-powered aircraft in the Junkers Ju 287 before war's end and were delving into the field as early as 1936. The Ju 287 was successfully flown with turbojets in place and the work went on to fuel some Soviet projects after the war. There proved advantages to such a wing arrangement concerning low-speed flight, rate-of-climb, and maneuverability.
As the USAAF worked to reinvent itself in the post-war years (becoming the United States Air Force -"USAF" - in 1947), the XA-44 designation was revised to become "XB-53" during 1948. As such, the CONVAIR product was reclassified from attack platform to medium bomber and slated to carry 12,000lb of conventional drop ordnance.
With the close of the war came slashed defense budgets and worldwide military drawdown so many promising and advanced aircraft projects were shelved or cancelled outright. This also threatened the XB-53 which was, in fact, competing with another CONVAIR medium bomber design - the "XB-46". As the service could not support both similar projects concurrently, the XB-53 held a slight advantage over the more conventionally-minded XB-46. A back-and-forth battle ensued between CONVAIR and the USAF to which both programs were allowed to gestate a time longer. However both ultimately suffered from waning interest and were given up for good - the X-46 back in 1947 and the XB-53 in 1949.