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CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker

Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft

United States | 1949

"The CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker turned into a prominent nuclear-capable bomber for the United States Air Force during its time aloft."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/03/2023 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Flag of Image from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.
If developed a few years sooner, the massive jet-powered CONVAIR B-36 "Peacemaker" could have very well taken part in the final battles of World War 2 (1939-1945). The initial design was born in a 1941 initiative by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) for a large, intercontinental strategic bomber capable of taking off from locations within the United States and able to deliver a considerable bomb payload against targets in Europe - this under the assumption that Britain would soon fall to the Germans and leave no viable American ally in Europe.

As such, work progressed throughout the war years, ultimately yielding a the XB-36 prototype which became the sole prototype completed for the program. This aircraft achieved a first flight on August 8th, 1946 and was powered by no fewer than 6 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-25 radial piston engines delivering 3,000 horsepower each.

The finalized B-36 took on a rather unique form as Cold War bombers went with its lengthy tubular fuselage, all-silver metal finish, and wide-spanning wings. The flightdeck was situated at the extreme front of the fuselage behind a short nosecone assembly with heavy glazing featured. Towards the empennage the fuselage tapered and the tail unit was capped with a single large vertical tail fin. Low-mounted horizontal planes completed the tail wing structure. The wing mainplanes were swept rearward along their leading edges and relatively straight along their trailing edges. The six engines were arranged in a "pusher" configuration and saw the propeller assemblies facing aft. The complicated wheeled and retractable undercarriage was of considerable size to support the sheer mass of the large aircraft when on the ground. By both size and carrying capacity measures, the B-36 was something of a monster when compared to the classic "heavy" bombers of World War 2.

After the XB-36 prototype was the developmental-minded YB-36 model which incorporated a refined nose section and cockpit. The model became the YB-36A and was given a sturdier undercarriage. This mark then evolved to become the reconnaissance-minded RB-36E detailed later. The main production variant became the B-36A but these were withheld for training purposes and left unarmed. Some twenty-two of the type were completed. The B-36B was the definitive armed production form with 6 x R-4360-51 radial piston engines of 3,500 horsepower each. 73 of the mark were completed. The RB-36B designated some 36 B-36B models outfitted with camera equipment for the photo-reconnaissance role.

B-model defensive armament included 2 x 20mm cannons in the nose, 2 x 20mm cannons in the tail, and 2 x 20mm cannons across six retractable fuselage barbette for a total of 16 guns in all. Its bombload could reach 86,000lb but the practiced total was closer to 72,000lb. Only after the disclosure of the American nuclear program were nuclear weapons carried on Peacemakers.

The YB-36C was intended as a B-36B offshoot though fitted with 6 x R-4360-51 series radials of 4,300 horsepower each. Nevertheless the model was not advanced into a production form and the B-36C designation was instead used to cover new B-36B model aircraft. The B-36D followed suit but added 4 x General Electric J-47-GE-19 series jets in a pair of underwing pods. 22 were new-build aircraft while 64 were converted from existing B-models. The RB-36D was its reconnaissance-minded form and seventeen were new-builds to this standard while seven conversions of B-models followed. The GRB-36D were ten D-models with provision for carrying the GRF-84F Thunderstreak jet fighter in its bomb bay area for the "parasite fighter" program.

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The RB-36E was born from the YB-36A developmental model and an additional 21 B-36A production models for the reconnaissance role. These then ended their days as reconnaissance platforms upgraded to the D-model standard. The B-36F followed the D-models as well but instead were completed with 6 x R-4360-53 radial piston engines of 3,800 horsepower as well as 4 x J-47-GE-19 series jets. 34 of the mark were delivered. The reconnaissance model became 24 of the RB-36F series.

The B-36H introduced a new cockpit and mission equipment but more or less followed the B-36F model line. 83 of this mark were completed. The NB-36H was a one-off H-model product used in nuclear reactor propulsion trials in an attempt to produce a heavy bomber powered by nuclear means. The RB-36H was the reconnaissance H-model form.

The B-36J was introduced as a high-altitude strategic bomber variant and brought along increased fuel stores for improved range, a reinforced undercarriage, and tail-gun-only defensive armament. 33 of this type were completed.

The B-36J featured a length of 49.4 meters with a wingspan of 70 meters and a height of 14.25 meters. Its empty weight was listed at 166,165lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 410,000lb. Its typical crew complement numbered thirteen specialists. Power was served through 6 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-53 "Wasp Major" radial piston engines of 3,800 horsepower with assistance from 4 x General Electric J47 series turbojets delivering an additional 5,200lbf of thrust. Maximum speed reached 418 miles per hour with cruising speeds of 230 mph. Combat radius lay in the 3,985 mile range with a ferry range out to 10,000 miles. The B-36J's service ceiling was 43,600 feet and rate-of-climb measured at 1,995 feet per minute.

Beyond its 72,000lb internal bombload, the J-models carried 2 x 20mm M24A1 cannons in a remote-operated tail turret to protect against closing threats from the rear.

The B-36 went on to stock the inventory of the United States Air Force solely and was never exported nor used by any other U.S. service branch. It formed a major component of Strategic Air Command (SAC) for years after its introduction while also fulfilling the general heavy bomber requirement of several bomber wings and the reconnaissance role for a few other groups. 384 total aircraft were ultimately completed from 1946 to 1954.

The line was eventually given up for good come February of 1959 as the B-36 was now formally succeeded by the Boeing B-47 "Stratojet" series. Only a few complete B-36 aircraft exist today as museum showpieces with many having been scrapped decades ago.

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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 CONVAIR B-36D Peacemaker Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft.
6 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-41 air-cooled radial piston engines developing 3,500 horsepower each driving three-bladed propeller units; 4 x General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines for additional thrust power.
439 mph
706 kph | 381 kts
Max Speed
283 mph
455 kph | 246 kts
Cruise Speed
45,197 ft
13,776 m | 9 miles
Service Ceiling
7,500 miles
12,070 km | 6,517 nm
Operational Range
2,000 ft/min
610 m/min
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 CONVAIR B-36D Peacemaker Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft.
162.1 ft
49.40 m
O/A Length
229.7 ft
(70.00 m)
O/A Width
46.8 ft
(14.25 m)
O/A Height
171,035 lb
(77,580 kg)
Empty Weight
418,878 lb
(190,000 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 CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft provided across 0 hardpoints.
STANDARD (Early Models):
2 x 20mm automatic cannons in nose (later deleted).
2 x 20mm automatic cannons in tail (later deleted).
12 x 20mm automatic cannons in fuselage turret barbettes.

Up to 86,000 lb of internally-held conventional or nuclear drop bombs.


Hardpoints Key:

Not Used
Notable series variants as part of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker family line.
B-36 "Peacemaker" - Base Series Designation
Model 36 - Consolidated Development Series Designation.
XB-36 - Prototype Series Designation; featured pressurized fuselage equipment and R-4360-25 (3,000hp) engines.
YB-36 - Service Trials Model Designation; extruded cockpit from fuselage.
YB-36A - Redesigned landing gear units
B-36A - Initial Production Model Designation; designated as an unarmed crew training aircraft of which 22 were produced in this fashion.
B-36B - Fitted with R-4360-41 (3,500hp) engines; 104 produced; defensive armament implemented into design featuring 20mm cannons in nose, tail and fuselage positions.
B-36D - Revised B-36B models for strategic reconnaissance duty; 4 x General Electric J47-GE-19 (5,200lb thrust) turbojet engines added; 64 produced as reconnaissance models; 22 produced with turbojet additions.
B-36F - Improved B-36 with increased engine power and improved electronic subsystems throughout; 34 produced; 3,800hp R-04360-53 with J47-GE-19 engines.
B-36H - Redesigned cockpit interior; 83 produced.
B-36J - Reinforced landing gear; 33 produced.
RB-36D - Reconnaissance Version
RB-36E - Reconnaissance Version
RB-36F - Reconnaissance Version
RB-36H - Reconnaissance Version
GRB-36F - "Parasite Fighter" mothership
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 384 Units

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

[ United States (retired) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (439mph).

Graph Average of 375 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
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Image of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker
Image from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.
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Image of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker
Image from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.
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Image of the CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker
Image from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.
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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 CONVAIR B-36 Peacemaker Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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