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Douglas B-26K Counter Invader (A-26B)

Tactical Support / Ground Attack Aircraft

The Douglas B-26K Counter Invader was born from the World War 2-era B-26 Invader, highly modified for the counter-insurgency role in Southeast Asia during the 1960s.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 5/19/2018
The B-26K/A-26B "Counter Invader" was based on a highly-modified airframe of the World War 2-era Douglas A-26 "Invader" twin-engined attack aircraft. By 1948, the A-26 had been redesignated as the "B-26" and the B-26K was developed for counter-insurgency work in Southeast Asia. On Mark Engineering converted forty B-26B/TB-26B airframes, along with a pair of B.26C and a single JB-26C - for the role and changes included 2 x R-2800-103W radial engines of 2,500 horsepower, dual-control schemes in the cockpit, wingtip fuel tanks, and modernized avionics. The ordnance load was increased from the wartime model and all turreted armament removed in favor of fixed, forward-firing weapons. Different engine cowls were also added as were cropped propeller units.

The original designation for this aircraft was known in the United States inventory as "B-26B" but became "A-26K" when the units were stationed overseas in countries such as Thailand for local authorities refused to allow "bombers" on home soil during the war in Southeast Asia - hence the designation changes in the Counter Invader's short history. As such, it is often referred rather interchangeably as the "B-26K" or "A-26B" ("B" meaning "Bomber" and "A" meaning "Attack").

Externally, the Counter Invader retained much of the form of its World War 2 counterpart. The aircraft utilized shoulder-mounted monoplane wings which were reinforced for its new mission role and showcased dihedral. The engine nacelles were fitted to the leading wing edges in the typical way with each powerplant driving three-bladed (reversible) propellers. The undercarriage was of a conventional tricycle arrangement with two main members and a noseleg for ground-running. The stepped cockpit was positioned just aft of the nose assembly with the nose housing the aircraft's primary armament. The fuselage incorporated rounded edges and was slab-sided, tapering off to form the empennage. The all-new tail unit relied on a single (clipped) vertical fin and low-set horizontal planes (also displaying dihredral).

The forward, fixed armament consisted of 8 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns stacked as two columns of four guns each. Up to 8,000lb of mixed ordnance (rocket pods, conventional drop bombs, gun pods, cannon pods) could be carried externally at multiple underwing hardpoints (four to a wing). Internally, an additional 4,000lb of drop stores could be hauled giving the B-26K quite the potent punch.

As modified, the aircraft could reach speeds of 323 miles per hour out to a range of 2,700 miles and up to a ceiling of 30,000 feet. Dimensions included a wingspan of 71.5 feet, a length of 51.6 feet, and a height of 19 feet. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) became 38,314lb.

While the original Douglas A-26 Invaders saw combat actions throughout World War 2 (1939-1945) and the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953) (as the B-26), the revised B-26K "Counter Invader" would be sent to Southeast Asia in 1966.

The series was actually retired from frontline service in 1958 but brought back online in 1961 when the USAF saw a need for tactical bombers over the region. Wear-and-tear eventually forced their removal once more in 1964 but as soon as 1966, the revitalized series returned to service in their new Counter Invader guises. These aircraft would serve in the region up until 1969 by which time they were finally removed from frontline service - again simply due to the stress and rigors of war placed on the decades-old airframes.

Counter Invader pilots were known as "Nimrods".


Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 40 Units ] :
Douglas Aircraft Company - USA
National flag of United States United States (retired)
- Ground Attack
- Close-Air Support (CAS)
51.71 ft (15.76 m)
71.52 ft (21.8 m)
19.00 ft (5.79 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Douglas B-26K Counter Invader production model)
38,312 lb (17,378 kg)
(Diff: +38,312lb)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Douglas B-26K Counter Invader production model)
2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-52W water-injected radial piston engines developing 2,500 horsepower.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Douglas B-26K Counter Invader production model)
Maximum Speed:
322 mph (519 kph; 280 kts)
Service Ceiling:
30,000 feet (9,144 m; 5.68 miles)
Maximum Range:
2,700 miles (4,345 km; 2,346 nm)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Douglas B-26K Counter Invader production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
8 x 0.50 caliber fixed, forward-firing heavy machine guns in nose.

8 x External Hardpoints capable of up to 8,000lb of mixed ordnance (to include gun pods, cannon pods, bombs, rocket pods). An additional 4,000lb carried in an internal bomb bay.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Douglas B-26K Counter Invader production model)
B-26K "Counter Invader" - Original Designation; Tactical Strike Aircraft Model fitted with 8 x 12.7mm machine guns in nose assembly; turrets removed; provisions for external wing hardpoints (8x); reconfigured cockpit.
VB-26B - US National Guard Model Designation
A-26B "Counter Invader" - Vietnam Theater Designation.
Cockpit image of the Douglas B-26K Counter Invader (A-26B)
(Cockpit image represents the Douglas B-26K production model)

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