Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to U.S. Military Aircraft, 1915-2000

By John C. Fredriksen

Warbirds will pay specific consciousness to the plane of America's Golden Age, 1919–1939, and the leap forward technological advancements of that era.

• every one access encompasses a picture of the warplane, carrier dates, producer, files set, engineering and function heritage, technical techniques, or even operational problems

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In 1935 Douglas responded by fielding its DB­1, which was based on the successful DC­2 commercial transport. The B­18,  as it came to be called, was a midwing, twin­engine, all­metal design with good range, payload, and speed for its day. More importantly, it could be had for one­third  less than its closest competitor, Boeing’s XB­17, a clearly superior craft. The Army chose to go with quantity, and in 1936 it awarded Douglas a contract for 133 B­ 18s. In 1937 this was followed up by an order for 217 improved B­18As, which featured a totally redesigned nose that gave it an unmistakable sharklike profile. By the advent of World War II, the B­18, unofficially known as the Bolo, was America’s most numerous bombardment aircraft. Several had been caught on the  ground and destroyed at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and saw no part in operations against the Japanese. The Army Air Force realized the futility of pressing the Bolos into  frontline service, so 122 of the surviving aircraft were modified as B­18Bs, the first aircraft to be fitted with magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment. They were  dispatched to the Caribbean Sea in 1942 and managed to sink two German U­boats before being replaced by the far superior B­24 Liberators. The B­18 served out  its final days as a transport and training aircraft before being retired in 1944. Type: Heavy Bomber  Dimensions: wingspan, 89 feet, 6 inches; length, 57 feet, 10 inches; height, 15 feet, 2 inches  Weights: empty, 16,321 pounds; gross, 27,673 pounds  Power plant: 2 × 1,000–horsepower Wright Cyclone R­1820 radial engines  Performance: maximum speed, 215 miles per hour; ceiling, 23, 900; maximum range, 1,200 miles  Armament: 3 × . 30–caliber machine guns; 6,500 pounds of bombs  Service dates: 1937–1944  Page 107  Douglas B­23 Dragon  The B­23 was a vast improvement over the earlier B­18 and was the first American bomber to be equipped with a manned tail gun. However, it was rapidly overtaken  by more modern designs and enjoyed only a brief service life. In 1938 Douglas sought to improve its existing B­18 by offering the Army Air Force a drastically modified form. The new craft featured a longer wing, a smaller  fuselage cross­section to reduce drag, and more powerful engines. The prototype flew for the first time in July 1939, and its performance was promising enough for the  Army to order 38 production copies for evaluation. They passed into service as the B­23 Dragon and displayed a marked improvement in performance over the older  Bolos, being 66 miles per hour faster and possessing a longer range. This was also the first American design to incorporate a manned tail­gun position to defend against  stern attacks. Unfortunately, the B­23 had no sooner been deployed than the military decided it had fallen behind prevailing European designs in terms of speed, armament, and  functionality. It was also markedly inferior to the North American B­25, the Martin B­26, and Boeing’s new B­17E, which was the first combat­ready model of that  famous bomber.

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