B-24 Liberator

us flagUS long-range bomber B-24 Liberator of WW2.

B-24J Liberator

B-24J Liberator 3D model

Consolidated Vultee Model 32 B-24 Liberator
Type:
Heavy long-range strategic bombers.

History:

B-24 bombing Tours

B-24 Liberators bombing Tours in France

With production totalling 18,482 units, the B-24 Liberator was the most numerous U.S. combat type of WW2. The B-24 served in the thick of the fighting on every front and in a variety of roles, including bombing, maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and transport. But the type’s major contribution was as a bomber, especially in the Pacific. In three years of operations B-24s dropped some 635,000 tons of bombs and downed 4,189 enemy aircraft. Although crews preferred the B-17 Fortress because it was less vulnerable, the Liberator proved to be an excellent and versatile combat aircraft. Apart from Consolidated, several other companies built Liberators. A total of 1,694 were delivered directly to the Royal Air Force for service with Coastal and Bomber Commands.

The preliminary studies which gave rise to the B-24 began early in 1939, when the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was asked by the U.S. Army Air Corps for a new heavy bomber. What was required was a more modern aircraft with better speed, range and altitude performance than the Boeing B-17 Fortress, which was already in production.

Head designer Isaac M. Laddon settled on a high-wing monoplane with twin fins and rudders. The wing was certainly the most original and advanced feature of the Laddon design. Consolidated had recently begun to incorporate Davis laminar-flow contours into its designs, and did not hesitate to apply these advances to the new bomber. The Liberator’s high-aspect-ratio wing conferred an impressive payload, climb and range performance.

A contract signed on March 30, 1939, called for a full-size model and a prototype; the latter first took to the air on December 29 of that year. The new bomber had a deep fuselage and a large bomb bay with sliding doors. The under­carriage was unusual for the time: a tricycle arrangement in which the main gear retracted into the wing. The type was originally powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 engines with two­stage mechanical superchargers, subsequently replaced by exhaust-driven turbo-superchargers.

Seven pre-production examples were built, followed in 1940 by a first order for 36 aircraft. Only nine of these were built, the rest being produced as B-24Cs. The B-24C had turbo-super­charged Pratt&Whitney R-1830s, which necessitated structural modifications to the engine nacelles. The armament was also increased. The first significant version, however, was the B-24D, for which large orders were received in 1940. Further orders brought total production of this variant up to 2,738 units. Such was the demand for the B-24 that the original production facilities had to be expanded.

Consolidated built B-24s at San Diego and then added a second assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas. Beginning with the B-24D, Douglas, Ford and North American also built Liberators.
Beginning in April 1942, the B-24D was the first Liberator to go into combat. Most of the Liberator’s early combat career centred on the Middle Eastem and Pacific theatres. The next version was the B-24E, which bad different engines and propellers. Then came the B-24G. Beginning with the 26th B-24G, a substantial modification was introduced. A mechanically operated nose turret was installed, thus providing extra defence against frontal attack, to which the B-24 had been particularly vulnerable. This arrangement was standard in all subsequent versions.

Liberator assembly line

The impressive Liberator assembly line.

A total of 3,100 B-24Hs were produced by Consolidated, Convair, Douglas and Ford. 1943 saw the appearance of the most numerous B-24 variant, the B-24J with new engine controls, a new bombsight and changes in the fuel and control systems. The final versions, the B-24L and B-24M, had improvements in armament. By May 31, 1945, totals of 1,667 Ls and 2,593 Ms had been built.

A mong the more important experimental variants and conversions of the B-24 were the photographic-reconnaissance F-7; the C-87 transport; the AT­22, a flying classroom for navigator training; and the C-1O9 transport/tanker. The Liberator XB-41, a B-24D modified in 1942 for service as a heavy bomber escort, never got beyond the prototype stage. It carried fourteen 12.7mm machine guns.

Users: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, France, India, Italy (CB), New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Soviet Union, Turkey, UK, U.S.A.


Animated 3D model of B-24 J Liberator


Data for Consolidated B-24 D Liberator

Technical data
Consolidated B-24 D Liberator data
Power plant 4 x 1,200hp Pratt&Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp, 14-cylinder radial, air-cooled
Accommodation 8 – 10
Wing span 110 ft
Length overall 66 ft 4 in
Height overall 17 ft 11 in
Weight empty 35,000 lb
Weight loaded 60,000 lb
Max level speed 303 mph
at height 25,000 ft
Initial climb 900 ft/min
Service ceiling 32,000 ft
Range 2,850 miles (with 5,000 lb bomb load)
Armament
Consolidated B-24 D Liberator data
Weapon turrets 3 electrically operated turrets (Martin turret dorsal, Briggs-Sperry retractable ventral 'ball' and Consolidated or Motor Products tail) each with 2 x 0.50 Browning MGs (1100 rpm, velocity 2500 ft.sec)
Single guns 2 x single 0.50 Browning MGs in manual waist positions and one manual MG in nose
MGs total 9
Bomb load 2 bomb bays with roll-up doors with vertical racks on each side of central catwalk for up to 8,800 lb of bombs
Service statistics
Consolidated B-24 Liberator data
First flight (prototype) 29 December 1939
Service delivery (B-24C) March 1941
Combat service (B-24D) April 1942
Production delivery (B-24J) August 1943
Termination of production 31 May 1945
Unit cost $ 297,627
Total production figure 2,738 (B-24D), 18,482 (B24 C-M), 19,203 (with R2Y transports) plus 1,800 aircraft delivered as spares
Number of US Sorties, Europe 42-45 226,775
US Bomb Tonnage, Europe 42-45 452,508 t
US Lost in Combat, Europe 42-45 3,626
Enemies US claimed destroyed, Europe 42-45 2,617
Call of War
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