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Convair B-36 Peacemaker Design, Specifications and Photographs

RB-36H S/N 51-13730 on display in Atwater, CaliforniaRB-36H S/N 51-13730 on display in Atwater, California more photos

I've had a fascination about the B-36 since my childhood in the mid-1950s when I used to hear the roar of Peacemakers flying high over central Louisiana.

Unfortunately, the B-36 wasn't part of the many air shows I attended at England Air Force Base in Alexandria, primarily a TAC base at that time.

My interest was furthered when I viewed the B-36 "City of Fort Worth" on display at Amon Carter Field in the early 1960s. My interest in the airplane continues to this day.

This section of Airplanes Of The Past is meant to be a tribute to those who designed & built the B-36, the crews who flew her, and those who have worked tirelessly to preserve this incredible airplane and its history.

I also respect the efforts of the officers and airmen of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the job they performed in maintaining the peace during the Cold War.

Strategic Air Command (SAC)I've had the distinct opportunity now to view three of the four remaining Peacemakers, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Castle Air Museum, and the Pima Museum in Tucson. I have on my "have to see" list a visit to the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

Thanks to the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Museum for their images used on this page.

Air Force Requirements for an Intercontinental Bomber

The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was one of the largest airplanes ever built, and was a key element in maintaining peace during the Cold War with Russia during the 1950s. Originally conceived in 1941 as an intercontinental bomber, it came into production in the late 1940s.

The Army Air Corps' specifications for this very 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 bomber to strike targets in Europe from air bases in the United States, and return to their home base. Bids were issued to the Boeing Aircraft Company and to Consolidated Aircraft, the ultimate winner of the B-36 contract.

B-36 U.S. Air Force Strategic Bomber TOPPS Card #24
B-36 U.S. Air Force Strategic Bomber TOPPS Card #24
(from the TOPPS Wings Friend or Foe Trading Card collection)

B-36 Flight Testing and Production

The XB-36 (S/N 41-13570) 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. 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. During production of the Peacemaker, Convair and the Air Force evolved the plane to the B-36D, B-36F, 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.

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.

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.

These giants were built in Fort Worth by the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation (later known as Convair) at its Carswell Air Force Base assembly plant.

Ultimately, 384 were built, all with 6 propellers mounted on the back of the wings, and most with an additional 4 jet engines mounted on the wingtips. Thus, "six turning, four burning".

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.

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 piston, four jet
  • Wingspan: 230'
  • Length: 162'
  • Height: 46' 9"
  • Crew: 15
  • The B-36 was the largest mass-produced piston engined aircraft ever made

Only four B-36 aircraft have survived and are display.

End of the Line and Scrapping of the B-36

By 1953, the Air Force made the decision to procure the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress as its next long-range heavy bomber. In February of 1956, the first B-36 aircraft arrived at Davis-Monthan AFB for scrapping. By late 1958 only 22 B-36s were left on active duty.

Four B-36 were selected for preservation, along with the cargo version of the B-36, the XC-99.

On February 12, 1959, B-36J (S/N 52-2827), the last B-36 built, flew the last B-36 mission to Amon Carter Field in Fort Worth. It would remain on display in Fort Worth for many years, until a lack of maintenance took its toll; the plane was later moved to the PIMA Air & Space Museum in Tucson.

By October of 1961 all of the remaining Peacemaker fleet had been reduced to scrap.

B-36 Photographs by Planes Of The Past

B-36 S/N 52-2220 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio more photos
B-36J Peacemaker
B-36J S/N 52-2827 at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona more photos
B-36 on display in Tucson, Arizona
RB-36H S/N 51-13730 at the Castle Air Museum, Atwater, California more photos
RB-36H on display in Atwater, California

Historic Postcard 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