Consolidated Aircraft Corporation held an existing relationship with the United States military in delivering large, multi-engined bomber types - its most classic of the World War 2 designs became the PBY "Catalina" flying boat aircraft that found much success throughout the conflict. With the development of the Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" heavy bomber ongoing during the war, all of the United States Army Air Force (formerly the United States Army Air Corps) eggs were seemingly placed into this basket so a move was made to develop another heavy bomber alongside it should the Boeing product not deliver in the timeframe expected. The USAAC approached Consolidated to bridge the gap and this work begat the Consolidated "Model 33" aircraft.
Consolidated engineers returned with a very modern heavy bomber design utilizing all that was learned in the development and operation of the B-24 Liberator heavies and their flying boats prior. A tubular, well-streamlined fuselage was selected with a glazed-over nose section and stepped cockpit with good views from within. Wings were high-mounted along the sides of the fuselage and each carried two radial piston engine in underslung nacelles. The empennage saw the fuselage taper in the normal way to which a twin-finned rudder assembly was arranged along individual supporting horizontal planes at rear - similar to the tail unit as seen in the preceding B-24. The engines - massive Wright R-3350 models of 2,200 horsepower output each - were the same as slated for the upcoming B-29. As the new Consolidated heavy was to operate at high altitudes for its bombing role, the aircraft was to be fully pressurized requiring a dedicated onboard system. No fewer than fourteen defensive machine guns were envisioned to help protect aircraft and crew - with guns fitted to remote-controlled, retractable turret installations directed by periscope viewing.
Content with the proposal, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) signed on for a pair of XB-32 prototypes. As completed, these prototypes lacked many of the features that would appear on the standardized production form including the pressurization system and the full slew of machine gun armament. Problems with engine cooling and leaks proved common which only served to delay the aircraft during development while progress proved an equally labored venture on the competing B-29 product. The XB-32 first flew on September 7th, 1942 but was lost in a crash the following year.
The second prototype followed and this time a large, rounded single vertical tail fin was fitted - its shape similar to that as seen in the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" and upcoming B-29 lines. The pressurization issues led to the aircraft being now relegated to the low-to-medium altitude bombing role which allowed engineers to drop the troublesome feature altogether. Problems also persisted with the intended remote-controlled armament and these too were nixed - in their place were conventional, manned, power-operated turrets instead. The second XB-32 followed into the air on November 3rd, 1943.
With 1944 looming, the USAAF moved ahead with an order for 1,500 of the bombers under the B-32 "Dominator" designation . The first of these was not delivered until September of that year to which the B-29 had already been in combat service for nearly half the year. By December, additional B-32 deliveries were limited while B-29s were being received in useful numbers and proving a successful design over Japan. Official service introduction of B-32s was not until late January 1945 and the line was eventually operated through the 312th Bombardment Group and the 386th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy).
Mechanical issues dogged much of the short-lived career of the Dominator - there were unresolved issues with its engines which led to in-flight fires and undercarriage weaknesses led to collapsed landing gears. Despite the deficiencies, the aircraft was pressed into action and saw first combat on May 29th, 1945 in an attack against Japanese supply stores at Luzon. The airframe proved adept as a bombing platform and crews enjoyed the modern onboard accommodations - though there were noted complaints about engine noise in the cockpit and critique of the instrument panel layout. Defensive armament was hailed as very good and the aircraft's major systems were easily accessible by ground personnel for repairs in-the-field.
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Consolidated Aircraft Corporation - USA Manufacturer(s)
2 x 0.50 caliber M2 machine guns in Sperry ball turret at nose.
2 x 0.50 caliber M2 machine guns in Martin forward dorsal turret.
2 x 0.50 caliber M2 machine guns in Martin rearward dorsal turret.
2 x 0.50 caliber M2 machine guns in ventral Sperry ball turret.
2 x 0.50 caliber M2 machine guns in Sperry ball turret at tail position.
Up to 20,000lb of internally-held conventional drop ordnance.
XB-32 - Prototype Model Designation; 3 exmamples produced; 8 x 12.7mm machine guns positioned in dorsal and ventral turrets along with a combination 2 x 12.7mm machine gun/20mm cannon array rear-firing for each outboard engine nacelle and additional 12.7mm machine guns outboard.
B-32 - Production Model Designation; 75 examples produced; changes to design as requested by the USAF.
TB-32 - Crew trainers sans armament and bombing equipment; 40 examples produced
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.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (357mph).
Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
The three qualities reflected above are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (118)
Compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian).
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