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Consolidated XB-41 Liberator

Bomber Escort Prototype Aircraft

United States | 1942

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

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/30/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator Bomber Escort Prototype Aircraft.
4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,250 horsepower each driving three-bladed propeller units.
289 mph
465 kph | 251 kts
Max Speed
28,543 ft
8,700 m | 5 miles
Service Ceiling
3,107 miles
5,000 km | 2,700 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator Bomber Escort Prototype Aircraft.
66.3 ft
20.22 m
O/A Length
110.1 ft
(33.55 m)
O/A Width
17.9 ft
(5.45 m)
O/A Height
62,997 lb
(28,575 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator Bomber Escort Prototype Aircraft .
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.
Notable series variants as part of the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator family line.
XB-41 "Liberator" - Base Series Name
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Consolidated Aircraft - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States (cancelled) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (289mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Consolidated XB-41 Liberator
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Consolidated XB-41 Liberator Bomber Escort Prototype Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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