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Strategic Bomber Prototype [ 1952 ]

The CONVAIR YB-60 was being developed during the 1950s for the role of strategic bomber - only one complete flying example was realized.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/04/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Cold War period (1947-1991), the showdown between East and West, saw tremendous technological growth with the advent of the jet age that followed the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945). The turbojet supplanted the piston-driven powerplant in fighter and bomber development and the sky proved the limit for aerospace engineers from then on. Against this backdrop, companies hurried to develop faster-, higher-flying combat platforms to satisfy a new wave of over-battlefield requirements from their respective national leaders.

The strategic heavy bomber was one category of particular focus for both sides. This group was embodied during the World War 2 years by such four-engined types as the Avro "Lancaster" and Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress", but the days of multi-engined, prop-driven bombers with now-modest war loads and machine gun defensive schemes was over - ahead lay new threats such as fast-closing interceptors and ground-based fire with Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems still to come.

For CONVAIR, the resulting marriage between wartime competitors Consolidated Aircraft (makers of the classic B-24 "Liberator") and Vultee Aircraft, the B-36 "Peacemaker" made global headlines when it took to the skies for a first-flight on August 8th, 1946. It was subsequently adopted by the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1948 and led a relatively long service life into early-1959. Nearly 400 of the type were produced from 1946 until 1954, such was their value to the service (the bomber went on to make up the nuclear-capable arm for the vital Strategic Air Command branch of the USAF).

However, this bombing platform was a mix of technologies in that primary power stemmed from 4 x General Electric J47 turbojets (5,200lb thrust each) coupled with 6 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-53 "Wasp Major" air-cooled radial engines offering an additional 3,800 horsepower of propulsion each. These were spread across wide-reaching wing mainplanes positioned at midships and gave the massive bombers its "legs" in the air. CONVAIR engineers were convinced that they could rewrite the design with a more effective, all-jet propulsion scheme seated within a more efficient swept-back wing mainplane offering inherent performance benefits and improved controlling.

The company approached USAF authorities with its planned bomber and March of 1951 saw the service commit its attention to a new CONVAIR design - designated "B-36G" as an offshoot of the B-36 bomber program line (mainly due to the cost-effective nature of transitioning an in-service airframe instead of developing a costly new one). Because changes to the original bomber form were to prove so extensive (only about 70% or so of the original bomber would be retained), the designation was soon changed to become "YB-40" so that the aircraft would head down its own development path as an all-new offering.

The new wing was set over the fuselage in typical fashion and considerable sweepback was apparent along both the leading and trailing edges. Under each wing were installed 8 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-3 turbojet engines arranged in four pods (two engines to a pod) with each unit outputting 8,700lb of thrust. The fuselage remained largely faithful to the original B-36 save for a probe protruding from the nose and some length added to the aircraft.

Finalized dimensions included a running length of 171 feet, a wingspan of 206 feet, and a height of 60.5 feet. MTOW reached 300,000lb. Performance specs, as tested, went on to include a maximum speed of 508 miles-per-hour, a combat range out to 3,000 miles, a ferry range beyond 8,000 miles, a service ceiling up to 53,300 feet, and a rate-of-climb reaching 1,060 feet-per-minute.

Internally, there was to be an operating crew of five personnel made up of two pilots, a navigator, a communications man doubling as the bombardier, and another communications man doubling as the tail gunner. The only standard armament fitted would be 2 x 20mm trainable automatic cannons in a tail position to protect the bomber's vulnerable "six" against approaching interceptors. The rest of the armament suite would center around a bombload totaling 72,000lb of conventional or nuclear drop ordnance.

A first-flight of the completed YB-40 prototype was recorded on April 18th, 1952. However, the YB-40 languished in key areas, particularly against what became its period competitor - the Boeing YB-52. While carrying more bombs than the YB-52, the YB-40 suffered in performance and handling which resulted in a second place finish. Because of this outcome, the YB-40 was not developed beyond its flight test form and a second prototype lay partially completed when the program was abandoned in January of 1953. The USAF turned its attention to the YB-52 and adopted it as the B-52 "Stratofortress", never to look back, while the two YB-40 airframes were accepted by the service (to complete the terms of the deal) but quickly scrapped without much fanfare in 1954.

Thus ended the flying career of CONVAIR's newest "almost-bomber", the short-lived YB-40. Meanwhile the B-52 continues to fly as a frontline strategic heavy bomber for the USAF to this day (2019).©MilitaryFactory.com
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Service Year

United States national flag graphic
United States

Development Ended.


National flag of the United States United States (cancelled)
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.

170.6 ft
(52.00 m)
206.7 ft
(63.00 m)
60.5 ft
(18.45 m)
300,049 lb
(136,100 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base CONVAIR YB-60 production variant)
Installed: 8 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-3 turbojet engines developing 8,700 lb of thrust each.
Max Speed
510 mph
(820 kph | 443 kts)
53,150 ft
(16,200 m | 10 mi)
8,078 mi
(13,000 km | 24,076 nm)
1,060 ft/min
(323 m/min)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base CONVAIR YB-60 production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)
2 x 20mm automatic cannons in tail position.

Up to 72,000lb of conventional drop bombs.

Supported Types

Graphical image of an aircraft automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 0

YB-60 - Base Series Designation.

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Image of the CONVAIR YB-60
Image from the Public Domain.


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