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Consolidated XB-41 Liberator

United States (1942)
Picture of Consolidated XB-41 Liberator Bomber Escort Prototype Aircraft

The Consolidated XB-41 Liberator was another USAAF attempt at producing a viable flying Gun Bus to escort bomber formations - only one was built.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator Bomber Escort Prototype Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 2/10/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Prior to the mass availability of long-range fighter escorts for its bomber formations, the USAAF undertook serious trials with various bomber airframes converted as flying gunships. The concept involved a heavily-armed and -armored aircraft accompanying the bomber fleet into enemy airspace, supplying point defense against intercepting fighters, and guiding the formation back home under protection. Such conversion work involved several of the classic American bombers of the war including the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" and the Consolidated B-24 "Liberator". The former was represented by the "YB-40" (detailed elsewhere on this site) and the latter by the "XB-41" detailed below.

A B-24D production model was set aside for the conversion work by Consolidated and this involved installation of additional guns and armor protection, the bombing equipment being deleted as a result. A second twin-gunned dorsal turret was added aft of the first and a remote-controlled Bendix powered turret was as added to the "chin" position. Each single-gunned beam position now showcased a twin-gunned arrangement. Two more guns were located at the tail and the Sperry ball turret, with its two machine guns, was retained at its ventral position. Due to the Liberator's low ground profile, the Sperry turret was retractable on take-off and landing actions. To feed the multiple machine gun arrangement, some 12,420 rounds of 0.50 caliber ammunition was to be taken aloft - as such, the bomb bay was used as a reserve for thousands of rounds.

Work on the XB-41 began in 1942 and the sole prototype was handed over for testing in January of 1943. After just two months of evaluation, the aircraft was written off from contention and this cancelled an initial batch of thirteen examples. It was found that the aircraft gained too much weight and added drag from the added armament, ammunition stocks, and armoring. The exposed positions also added considerable drag making the flying Gun Bus much slower than their intended bomber formations - particularly when the formations had dropped their bomb loads. More work on done on the prototype to make it a viable escort platform but this led to little improvement and the attempt ultimately fell to aviation history.
The prototype was reworked as a trainer and redesignated as "TB-24D". It ended its days in this form until scrapped during February of 1945.

As completed, the XB-41 was crewed by nine personnel. Overall length was 66.3 feet with a wingspan of 110 feet and height of 17.10 feet. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) was 63,000lb. Power was from 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 air-cooled radial piston engines delivering 1,250 horsepower each. Maximum speed was 289 mph with a range out to 3,100 miles and a service ceiling of 28,500 feet.

The YB-40 (B-17F) Gun Bus project fared slightly better as twenty-five of the type were produced though only in its developmental form. This project was also largely viewed as a failure for the return of investment though it brought about key qualities featured in future B-17 operational models - namely the Bendix powered chin turret featured in the B-17G.

All of this was moot as the USAAF began receiving long-range fighter escorts, complete with jettisonable fuel tanks, in number and these served well in providing protection to bomber formations over enemy territory. They were nimble aircraft with excellent performance and good armament capable of flying with the formations to-and-from the target areas.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (289mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
1
1


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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Origin: United States
Year: 1942
Type: Bomber Escort Prototype Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Consolidated Aircraft - USA
Production: 1
Global Operators:
United States (cancelled)
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
9


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
66.34 ft


Meters
20.22 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
110.07 ft


Meters
33.55 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
17.88 ft


Meters
5.45 m


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
62,997 lb


Kilograms
28,575 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,250 horsepower each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
289 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
465 kph


Knots
251 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
3,107 mi


Kilometers
5,000 km


Nautical Miles
2,700 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
28,543 ft


Meters
8,700 m


Miles
5.41 mi

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Armament - Hardpoints (0):

2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in powered Bendix chin turret.
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in forward dorsal turret.
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in aft dorsal turret.
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in left beam position.
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in right beam position.
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in ventral Sperry ball turret.
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in tail position.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• XB-41 "Liberator" - Base Series Name