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Convair B-36 Peacemaker Design, Specifications, Deployment and Photographs

More B-36

B-36 Survivors

B-36 - National Museum of the U.S. Force

B-36 - Castle Air Museum

B-36 - PIMA Air & Space Museum

B-36 - Strategic Air & Space Museum

Carswell AFB and Its Role in the B-36 Program

Convair YB-60

Convair XC-99

Strategic Air Command: The Movie

U.S. Requirements for an Intercontinental Bomber

The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was one of the largest aircraft ever built, and was instrumental in maintaining peace during the Cold War with Russia during the 1950s. It was originally conceived in 1941 as an intercontinental bomber, and came into production in the late 1940s.

The U.S. Army Air Corps' specifications for this very heavy, long-range nuclear bomber required it to have a top speed of 450 mph, a service ceiling of 45,000 feet, carry a 10,000 pound bomb load, and fly non-stop for 12,000 miles.

This would enable the super bomber to strike targets in Europe from air bases in the United States, and return to their home base without refueling.

Bids were issued to the Boeing Aircraft Company, and also to Consolidated Aircraft, the ultimate winner of the B-36 contract.

B-36 Peacemakers Flying Today

Many people ask ... are there still any B-36 bombers flying today? Sadly, today, only four Peacemakers survive, and they are all on static display in museums. There are no B-36s in airworthy condition. Read more about B-36 Survivors.

B-36 Flight Testing and Acceptance

The XB-36 (S/N 42-13570) made its maiden flight on August 8, 1946. The second prototype was designated the YB-36 (S/N 42-13571), and flew for the first time on December 4, 1947.

B-36 U.S. Air Force Strategic Bomber TOPPS Card #24
B-36 U.S. Air Force Strategic Bomber - TOPPS Wings Friend or Foe Card #24

The first B-36A (S/N 44-92005) was accepted in May of 1948. 

Much of the B-36's external skin was made of magnesium, which had a dull color, in contrast to the shiny aluminum used to cover the fore and aft pressurized compartments.

These giant bombers were built by the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation (later known as Convair) at its assembly plant across the runway from Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas.

Convair XB-36 Peacemaker S/N 42-13570
Convair XB-36 Peacemaker

 

Convair B-36 Peacemaker Assembly Line in Fort Worth
Convair B-36 Peacemaker Assembly Line in Fort Worth

 

B-36 Design Evolution and Model Production

Rear view of the B-36J Peacemaker 22827
B-36J at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson.

During production of the Peacemaker, Convair and the Air Force evolved the plane to the B-36B, B-36D, B-36F, B-36J and B-36H models.

A major change to the original, basic B-36 design was the addition of jet engines. Beginning with the B-36D, the Peacemaker added four General Electric J47-GE-19 jet engines, mounted in pods like those used in the Boeing B-47.

Ultimately, the Air Force had all earlier B-36 units reconfigured with the jet engines. With 6 propellers mounted on the back of the wings and an additional 4 jet engines mounted on the wingtips, the term "six turning, four burning" became popular.

The B-36J was the last production series, most of which were "Featherweight III" models. Older models were retrofitted as "Featherweights" to reduce weight and improve speed. A large number of reconnaissance versions were also built, including RB-36H models.

One of the more famous of the B-36 line was B-36H-35-CF Serial Number 51-5734, used in the memorable startup and takeoff sequences in the Strategic Air Command movie. It arrived on August 27, 1957 at Davis-Monthan AFB for reclamation; it was scrapped in November of 1957.

Convair B-36D Peacemaker, S/N 49-2652, of the 7th Bomb Wing at Carswell AFB
Convair B-36D, S/N 49-2652, at Carswell AFB

 

 

Specifications of the USAF B-36 Peacemaker Bomber

The size, dimensions and power of the B-36 are staggering. Some notable facts:

  • Design competition begun in April 1941 for a long-range aircraft
  • First flight of the airplane: August 8, 1946
  • First deliveries to the U.S. Air Force: November, 1948
  • Retired: February 12, 1959
  • Number built: 384
  • Builder: Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation, later to become Convair
  • Engines: six Pratt & Whitney piston, four J47 jets
  • Wingspan: 230'
  • Length: 162'
  • Height: 46' 9"
  • Weight: 410,000 pounds loaded
  • Service ceiling: 45,000 feet
  • Maximum speed: 435 miles per hour
  • Crew: 15
  • The B-36 was the largest mass-produced piston engined aircraft ever made

B-36 Deployment in the United States Air Force

A number of U.S. Air Force wings and air bases would operate the B-36, including the following:

Air Force Base
USAF Wing
Carlswell AFB, TX
7th Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Carlswell AFB, TX 11th Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Biggs AFB, TX 95th Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Travis AFB, CA 5th Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Travis AFB, CA 9th Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Loring AFB, MN 42nd Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Walker AFB, NM 6th Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Ellsworth AFB, SD 28th Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Fairchild AFB, WA
92nd Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Fairchild AFB, WA
99th Bomb Wing (Heavy)
Ramey AFB, PR
72ndBomb Wing (Heavy)

Convair's Project to Build an All-Jet B-36: The YB-60

As jet aircraft began to emerge in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Convair started design on a swept-winged version of the B-36 with all-jet propulsion, known as the Convair YB-60. It also designed and built a prototype large-scale transport plane, the Convair XC-99.

In March 1951, the US Air Force authorized Convair to convert two B-36Fs to B-36Gs. Since the jet aircraft was so different from production B-36 models, the designation was later changed to YB-60.

The eight-engine YB-60 shared 72% of its parts with the B-36. The fuselages of the two aircraft were nearly identical, although the YB-60 had a longer, pointed nose with a needle-like instrument probe, instead of the B-36's rounded nose.

About the Convair YB-60

Convair YB-60 on tarmac
Convair YB-60 on tarmac

 

The Cargo Version of the B-36: The XC-99

The other variant of the B-36 was the giant cargo plane, the XC-99 (S/N 43-52436) , the largest piston-engined aircraft in the world. It was built at the Consolidated plant in San Diego, had its maiden flight on November 23, 1947, and was delivered to the Air Force in May of 1949.

The XC-99 was used for many years in active service. The XC-99 logged more than 7,400 hours of flying time and moved more than 60 million pounds of cargo. The plane made its final voyage on March 19, 1957.

The US Air Force determined that it had no need for such a large, long-range transport plane at that time, and no more were ordered. The sole XC-99 served until 1957, including extensive usage during the Korean War.

About the Convair XC-99

B-36 Peacemaker (left) and Convair XC-99 (right) in flight formation
Convair XC-99 and B-36 Peacemaker in flight formation

End of Service and Scrapping of the B-36

The final Peacemaker, B-36J-III-10-CF, S/N 52-2827A, came off the assembly line on August 14, 1954, and was assigned to the 92nd Bomb Wing at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington.

When production ceased, a total of 384 Peacemakers had been built. Four B-36 were selected for preservation, along with the cargo version of the B-36, the XC-99.

By 1953, the Air Force made the decision to procure the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress instead of the Convair YB-60 as its next long-range heavy bomber. On June 29, 1955, the first B-52 was delivered to SAC by Boeing.

In February of 1956, the first B-36 aircraft arrived at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for storage and eventual dismantling. Once known as the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC), the facility today is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), the sole aircraft boneyard and parts reclamation facility for all excess military and government aircraft.

Reclamation and scrapping at Davis-Montan were contracted to the Mar-Pak Corporation, Painesville, Ohio. Mar-Pak had reclaimed 161 B-36s by December of 1957 and processed the last B-36 in April of 1959. By then the Air Force had a fleet of about 500 Stratofortresses.

By late 1958 only 22 B-36s were left on active duty. On February 12, 1959, the last operational flight of the B-36 took place, as 52-2827 flew from Biggs AFB to Fort Worth's Amon Carter Field. It remained on display for several years in that city, until its move in 2005 to the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson where it is currently located.

Davis-Monthan AFB's AMARG facility

Ground level view at Davis-Monthan AFB of B-36 Peacemakers in storage in 1958
RB-36H Serial Number 51-13723 of the 72nd Bombardment (Heavy) Wing is seen in the foreground
Ground level view of B-36 Peacemakers in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1958

Aerial view of Convair B-36 Peacemakers, with engines removed, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base awaiting final reclamation. The last Peacemaker was scrapped on July 25, 1961
Aerial view of Convair B-36 Peacemakers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base awaiting scrappin

Advertisement by the Mar-Pak Corporation for the sale of B-36 surplus parts at its Davis-Monthan facility in Tucson
Advertisement by the Mar-Pak Corporation for the sale of B-36 surplus parts at its Davis-Monthan facility in Tucson

 


Aerial view of nine B-36 Peacemakers being scrapped at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona
View of nine B-36 Peacemakers being scrapped at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona

 

Airplane boneyards after World War II and active boneyards today ... maps, photographs, tours and more ... visit there now! Davis-Monthan AFB's AMARG facility, the world's largest airplane boneyard

List of B-36 Survivors

The B-36 survivors are listed below ... click the links for additional information and photographs of the airplane at each facility.

Facility
Location
Model
Serial No.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Dayton, Ohio
B-36J-1-CF 52-2220
Pima Air and Space Museum Adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
Tucson, Arizona
B-36J-10-CF 52-2827
Strategic Air and Space Museum Near Omaha, Nebraska B-36J-1-CF 52-2217
Castle Air Museum Atwater, California RB-36H-30-CF
51-13730

Will the B-36 Ever Fly Again?

There is lots of interest among aviation historians and Air Force enthusiasts in having the B-36 fly again.

After all, there have been successful projects to restore two B-29 Superfortresses to flight status, i.e., FiFi and Doc.

Other vintage aircraft have survivors in flight, such as the B-17, B-24, B-25, P-51, DC-3, F-100 and others. Why not have a B-36 in flying status?

B-36 Peacemaker Foundation fund-raising campaign to make the B-36 fly again

First, there are only four surviving B-26 airframes, all in museums, to work with. Two are on display indoors, in Dayton, Ohio, and Ashland, Nebraska. The other two are outdoors, at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, and the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California.

They are in varying mechanical, electrical and structural conditions. Decades of corrosion would have to dealt with. Even if it were feasible from an airframe standpoint, the cost would be large, and the required skilled volunteer workforce monumental.

An effort was made in the early 1970s by the Peacemaker Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas, to raise funds to restore and fly the B-36 (52-2827) that was on display at the Greater Southwest Airport. The restored aircraft was to be based at Fort Worth's Meacham Field. The project was never finalized. The image to the right shows part of their advertising campaign.

The B-36's Role in the "Strategic Air Command" Movie

B-36HF Serial Number 51-5734 used in the memorable startup and takeoff sequences in the SAC movie
Strategic Air Command movie poster showing B-36HF Serial Number 51-5734 used in the memorable startup and takeoff sequences in the movie.

Most B-36 Peacemaker fans know the classic film Strategic Air Command, the 1955 Paramount Pictures movie starring James Stewart as Lt. Colonel Robert R. "Dutch" Holland and June Allyson as his wife Sally.

Also starring in the motion picture were Frank Lovejoy and Harry Morgan.

The movie premiered in New York on April 20, 1955, and in Los Angeles on April 28, 1955.

The film includes some of the most dramatic aerial photography ever filmed, for which it was awarded a special citation by the American National Board of Review.

One of the memorable scenes in the movie is the startup and takeoff sequence of the B-36H S/N 51-5734 airplane (see video below).

It is also the only motion picture to highlight the B-36, and was filmed with the cooperation of the Air Force at Carswell AFB, MacDill AFB in Tampa, and Lowry AFB in Colorado.

about the Strategic Air Command movie


B-36 Photographs by the Planes Of The Past Staff

B-36 S/N 52-2220 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio more photos
B-36J Peacemaker

Cockpit view of the B-36J Peacemaker at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force more photos
Cockpit view of the B-36J Peacemaker with the shield of the Strategic Air Command logo

Jet engines on the B-36J Peacemaker at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson more photos
Jet engines on the B-36J Peacemaker

Nose view of the B-36J Peacemaker "City of Ft. Worth" 2827 more photos
Nose view of the B-36J Peacemaker "City of Ft. Worth" 2827

RB-36H S/N 51-13730 at the Castle Air Museum, Atwater, California more photos
RB-36H on display in Atwater, California

RB-36H Peacemaker on display at the Castle Air Museum in California more photos
RB-36H Peacemaker

Historic Postcards of the B-36 Peacemaker from the Planes Of the Past Collection

Convair B-36 Peacemaker, S/N 22220
Convair B-36 Peacemaker, S/N 22220

B-36 Peacemaker, S/N 44-92033, Buzz Number BM-033, in flight
B-36 Peacemaker BM-033 in flight

Video Excerpt from the Strategic Air Command Movie on YouTube - Takeoff Sequence of B-36H Serial Number 51-5734

Consolidated-Vultee B-36 Movie on YouTube