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.
30,000 feet (9,144 m; 5.68 miles)
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 represents the Douglas B-26K production model)
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of a possible 100.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (322mph).
Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
Douglas B-26K Counter Invader operational range when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
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