A-26 Douglas Invader
A-26 Douglas Invader
A wider body permitted side-by-side pilot seating and 4,000 pounds of bombs. Instead of hand-held guns, two 50-caliber guns in a top turret and two in a lower rear turret were aimed through periscopic sights and remote controls in the rear cockpit. Two 2,000-hp R-2800-27 Wasps and wings with a low-drag laminar-flow airfoil and double-slotted flaps, along with tricycle landing gear, were provided.
Contracts were placed June 2, 1941, for prototypes and on October 31 for the first 500 production aircraft. But it would be three years before the A-26 entered combat, unlike the rapid flow of Havocs from the Douglas plants in 1941-1944. The first XA-26 flew July 10, 1942, at El Segundo with three crewmen, a transparent bombardier nose, and six guns. Two guns were fixed on right side of the nose, and four in the turrets.
Night fighter equipment was installed on the second prototype, the two-seat XA-26A with AGL-1 radar in the nose, four 20-mm fixed guns in a belly tray, and a top turret with four .50-caliber guns. It was not flown until January 27, 1943, but this version was made redundant by the success of Northropís P-61.
The third prototype was the XA-26B, completed by May 1943, which had a 75-mm T-7 cannon on the right side and two .50-caliber guns on the left side of a short solid nose and four .50-caliber guns paired in turrets. This gun nose had been chosen for the production model, but considerable gun variations were possible. A tank destroyer version with four 37-mm guns was proposed in January 1943, but was discarded by February 22.
The large propeller spinners on the prototypes were deleted from the production A-26Bs built at Long Beach. The first of five A-26B-l-DL Invaders appeared on September 10, 1943, and 15 A-26B-5-DLs completed by March 1944 had minor changes and eliminated the camouflage formerly customary on bombers. These models had the 75-mm gun in the nose with two .50-caliber guns on the left side, but a new all-purpose nose was installed on later aircraft, beginning with the A-26B-10. Extensive cockpit armor and self-sealing fuel tanks were provided.
Alternate gun arrangements could be chosen: two 37-mm and four .50-caliber, one 37-mm and one 75-mm, or one 75-mm and two .50-caliber guns. The usual arrangement actually installed was six .50-caliber nose guns, with 400 rounds per gun, along with the usual guns paired in the two turrets with 500 rounds each. The bomb bay could accommodate six 500 or four 1,000-pound bombs. Beginning with the A-26B-15, fixtures under the wings could accommodate eight more .50-caliber guns or four more 500-pound bombs. Five aircraft from the A-26B-15-DL line were finished as A-26C-DL bombers with transparent nose enclosures and two nose guns.
Delays in achieving mass production brought much criticism from the Air Force, including General Arnoldís complaint on March 13, 1944, that he wanted ďA-26s for use in this war and not the next war.Ē He hoped to replace not only the A-20, but the B -25 and B-26 medium bombers with the A-26.
While the first 500 Invaders (to A-26B-40-DL) rolled out of Long Beach, a parallel production line was established at Tulsa, Oklahoma, for 500 aircraft ordered March 17, 1943, the first appearing in January 1944. Of these, 205 were delivered as A-26B-5 to A-26B-25-DT models and the rest as A-26C-15 to A-26C-25-DT with glazed noses. On most of these the engine model was the R-2800-71, with a new ignition system.
New production contracts for 6,700 more Invaders were approved March 29, 1944, and later. The first appeared in January 1945 as the A-26B-45-DL, introducing the R-2800-79 water injection engine yielding 2,350-hp WE (war-emergency) power. Beginning with B-26B-50-DL, fourteen 5-in. rockets could be carried under the wings, and six .50-caliber guns were mounted within the wings. Eight .50-caliber nose guns brought the total to 14 fixed guns. Additional range could be attained from two 155-gallon external wing tanks, or a 125-gallon tank could replace the lower gun turret.