A-26 Douglas Invader
Parallel changes were made on the A-26C line at Tulsa. Invader deliveries ended at Long Beach on August 31, 1945, after 655 B-26B-45/-66-DLs had been built to that contract, and at Tulsa after 791 more B-26C-30/-55-DT. Altogether, 2,451 Invaders had been accepted, with wartime cancellations eliminating the proposed A-26D and E models.
Several experimental versions were tested, including an XA-26D-DL completed with R-2800-83 Wasps in 1945. One A-26B fitted with a 105-mm T7 gun and 30-round automatic feed was ground tested in 1945.
Perhaps the first tests of jet propulsion on an American bomber was made on the XA-26F, an A-26B delivered after the war with a I-16 jet engine and 125 gallons of jet fuel replacing the rear gunner and turrets. The jet intake was atop the fuselage and the exhaust was in the tail. Two 2,100-hp R-2800-83 Wasps turned four-bladed props, and although no rear guns were carried, eight nose and six wing .50-caliber guns were retained. In June 1946, the XA-26F averaged 413 mph over a 621-mile course.
Combat began for the Invaders used by the Ninth Air Force in Britain. The 416th Bomb Group flew the first full group mission November 17, 1944, its A-26Bs led on a medium altitude bombing strike by glass-nosed A-20Ks, since A-26Cs had not yet arrived. By January 23, 1945, the 409th Bomb Group joined the effort, making the first low-level attacks by Ninth Air Force bombers in Europe since 1943. The third Ninth Air Force A-20 group, the 410th, used its first A-26s for night attacks.
Two groups with Martin B-26 Marauders, the 386th and 391st, changed to A-26s by April, with the final mission by 124 A-26s and eight B-26 pathfinders on May 3, 1945. Air Force A-26s flew 11,567 sorties in the European war.
The 47th Bomb Group in Italy also received some A-26s in 1945, but returned to the United States in July for specialized training in night attacks. While it did not go into combat again, its black-painted B-26Cs with radar served the group until replaced by B-45s in 1948.
The RAF received an A-26B-15 in July 1944, and was loaned two A-26C-25s for evaluation in February 1945. A plan to supply Britain with 140 A-26C Invaders canceled even before Germany’s collapse, and those A-26Cs were assigned to the U.S. Navy’s JD-1 program.
In the Pacific, the veteran 3rd Bomb Group had tried five A-26B-5s in July 1944, but was not converted from
A-20s to A-26s until a year later. They bombed for the Fifth Air Force from July 9 to August 12, 1945, while the 319th Bomb Group used them with the Seventh Air Force. After the war, the 3rd Bomb Group was stationed in Japan with the occupation forces. After 1948, it was the only light bomber group left in the Air Force.