B-24 Liberator, Consolidated

B-24 Liberator

The big and complicated B-24 was the most built US aircraft of WWII. The B-24 was more difficult to fly than the B-17, especially at high altitude, and although it was designed later it did not have a much better performance. But it was efficient and had longer range, due to the slender 'Davis' wing. It's range made it much in demand for naval patrol tasks. The B-17 was often claimed to be sturdier and more reliable, but the B-24 actually suffered fewer losses. Some Liberators were stripped of their equipment and armament and used as transports called CB-24. 19256 built.

Type: B-24D-85-CO
Function: bomber
Year: 1942
Crew: 10
Engines: 4 * 1200hp P&W R-1830-43
Wing Span: 33.52 m
Length: 20.22 m
Height: 5.46 m
Wing Area: 97.36 m2
Empty Weight: 15413 kg
Max.Weight: 27216 kg
Speed: 488 km/h
Ceiling: 9753 m
Range: 3500 km
Armament: 9-11 * mg 12.7mm 3629 kg payload

Type: B-24J
Function: bomber
Year: 1943
Crew: 12
Engines: 4 * 895 kW P&W R-1830-65
Wing Span: 33.53 m
Length: 20.47 m
Height: 5.49 m
Wing Area: 97.36 m2
Empty Weight: 16556 kg
Max.Weight: 32296 kg
Speed: 467 km/h
Ceiling: 8535 m
Range: 3480 km
Armament: 10 * mg 12.7mm, 5806 kg payload

Like the equally successful North American P-51 Mustang, the Liberator was designed in a great hurry. In January 1939, the United States Army Air Corps invited Consolidated to submit a design study for a bomber with greater range, higher speed, and greater altitude performance than the existing backbone of the Army Air Corps, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

The contract for a prototype was awarded in March, requiring that it be ready before the end of the year. The design was simple in concept but advanced for its time. The 70,547 lb (32,000 kg) maximum takeoff weight was one of the highest of the time. It was the first American bomber to use tricycle landing gear instead of a tailwheel, and it featured long, thin wings with a high aspect ratio for maximum fuel efficiency. It also had a twin tail layout.

Compared to the B-17, the B-24 was shorter, had 25% less wing area but a 6 foot (1.8 m) greater wingspan, and a substantially greater carrying capacity. Whereas the B-17 used 9-cylinder Wright R-1820 Cyclone engines, the B-24 used twin-row 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radials of 1000 hp (746 kW).

Consolidated finished the prototype, by then known as the XB-24, and had it ready for its first flight with just two days before the end of 1939. Seven more YB-24 development aircraft flew in 1940 and Consolidated began preparing production tooling. Early orders placed even before the XB-24 had flown included 36 for the United States Army Air Corps, 120 for the French Armée de l'Air, and 164 for the RAF. Most of the first production Liberators went to Britain, including all those originally ordered by the Armée de l'Air after France collapsed in 1940.

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