|Maiden flight||7 September, 1942|
|Introduced||27 January 1945|
|Retired||30 August 1945|
|Primary user||U.S. Army Air Force|
The Consolidated B-32 Dominator (Consolidated Model 34) was a heavy bomber made for United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War, and has the distinction of being the last Allied aircraft to be engaged in combat during WWII. It was developed in parallel with the Boeing B-29 Superfortress as a fallback design should the Superfortress prove unsuccessful. It only reached units in the Pacific during the summer of 1945, and hence only saw very few combat operations against Japanese targets before the end of the war. Most of the extant orders of the B-32 were cancelled shortly thereafter and only 118 B-32s (of all types) were built.
The engineering development of the B-29 had been underway since mid-1938 when in June 1940, the Air Corps requested a similar design from Consolidated Aircraft Company in case of development difficulties with the B-29.
The Consolidated Model 33 on which Consolidated based its proposal was similar to their B-24 Liberator. Like the B-24 it was originally designed with twin fins, and a large Davis-type wing, but with a longer, rounder fuselage and a rounded nose. The powerplants were to be four 2,200 hp Wright R-3350s. The aircraft was designed to be pressurized, and have remote controlled retractable gun turrets with fourteen 50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns. It was to have an estimated gross weight of 101,000 lb (45,814 kg). The first contract for 2 XB-32's was signed on September 6, 1940, the same day as the contract for the Boeing prototype XB-29.
The first XB-32-CO, AAF s/n 41-141, rolled off the assembly line six months behind schedule, making its first flight on September 7, 1942. Due to problems with the pressurization system, the gun turrets and landing gear doors these items were omitted on the first prototype. The aircraft had R-3350-13 engines inboard and R-3350-21s outboard driving three-bladed propellers. The prototype was to have persistent problems with engine oil leaks and poor cooling.
Om March 17, 1943, the initial contract was signed for 300 B-32-CFs but development problems continued. On May 10, 1943, the first XB-32 crashed on takeoff after making a total of 30 flights before the second XB-32, s/n 41-142, finally flew on July 2. This aircraft had a traditional stepped cockpit canopy. Upon examination and testing the USAAF recommended a large number of changes.
The second XB-32 was equipped with eight 50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in dorsal and ventral turrets, two 50 caliber and one 20 mm cannon in each outboard engine nacelle firing rearwards controlled by aiming stations in the aircraft plus two 50 caliber machine guns in the wings outboard of the propellers. The pressurization system problems were never solved and the intention that the aircraft were to be operated a low and medium heights only meant that it was easily eliminated from production aircraft. Problems with the remote controlled gun turrets were also never solved and the armament on production aircraft was changed to ten 50 caliber machine guns in the nose, dorsal, ventral and tail positions. The bomb load was increased by 4,000 pounds (1,814 kg) to 20,000 pounds (9,072 kg).
The second XB-32 continued to have stability problems. In an attempt to resolve this a B-29 style tail was fitted to the aircraft after its 25th flight but this did not resolve the problem and a Consolidated-designed 19.5 foot (5.9 m) vertical tail was added and first flown on the third XB-32, s/n 41-18336 on November 3, 1943. The first production aircraft was fitted with the B-29 vertical tail initially before a new tail was eventually substituted.
By 1944 testing of the three prototypes permitted the AAF to place orders for over 1,500 B-32s. The first production aircraft was delivered on September 19, 1944, by which time the B-29 was already in combat in China. The first B-32 crashed on the same day it was delivered when the nose wheel collapsed on landing. After a review by the USAAF and a recommendation that the test phase be completed before cancelling the program, Beginning January 27, 1945, 40 B-32A-5, -10 and -15 aircraft were delivered as unarmed TB-32-CF crew trainers.
Originally, the Army Air Force intended the B-32 as a ‘fallback’ design to be used only if the B-29 programme fell significantly behind in its development schedule. As development of the B-32 became seriously delayed this plan became unnecessary due to the success of the B-29. Initial plans to use the B-32 to supplement the B-29 in re-equipping B-17 and B-24 groups before redeployment of the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces to the Pacific were stymied when only 5 production models had been delivered by the end of 1944, by which time full B-29 operations were underway in the Twentieth Air Force.
The first assignment of the B-32 began when General George Kenney the commander of Allied air forces in the South West Pacific Area, and commander of the U.S. Fifth Air Force, travelled to Washington D.C. to request B-29s. Since priority had been given to strategic bombing by the B-29, Kenney’s request was denied, after which he requested the B-32.
Following a demonstration, the Army General Staff agreed that Kenney could conduct a combat evaluation, and a test schedule of eleven missions was set up, followed by a plan to convert two of the the 312th Bomb Group's four A-20 Havoc squadrons to B-32s. Project crews took three B-32s to Clark Field, Luzon, Philippine Islands in mid-May 1945, for a series of test flights completed on June 17. The test crews were impressed with its unique reversible-pitch inboard propellers and the Davis wing which gave it excellent landing performance. However, they found the cockpit had an extremely high noise level, poor instrument layout, the bombardier's vision was poor, it was overweight and the nacelle design resulted in frequent engine fires.
The three test B-32s were assigned to the 312th BG's 386th Bomb Squadron. On May 29, 1945, the first of four combat missions by the B-32 was flown against a supply depot at Antatet in the Philippines, followed by two B-32's dropping sixteen 2,000 pound (907 kg) bombs on a sugar mill at Taito, Formosa on the June 15. On June 22 a B-32 bombed an alcohol plant at Heito, Formosa, with 500 pound bombs (227 kg) but a second B-32 missed flak positions with its 260-pound (118 kg) fragmentation bombs. The last mission was flown on June 25 against bridges near Kiirun in Taiwan.
The testing missions were mostly successful, and in July the 386th Bomb Squadron completed its transition to the B-32, flying six more combat missions before the war ended. On the August 13 the 386th BS moved from Luzon to Yontan Airfield on Okinawa and flew mostly photographic reconnaissance missions, and was attacked on August 17 by flak and fighters despite the Japanese surrender, claiming one kill and two probable kills.
On August 18 a formation of 14 A6M Zeros and 3(a total of 17) Nakajima Ki-44 Tojo fighters attacked four of the B-32s conducting aerial photography of the Japanese Islands. The B-32 Dominator Hobo Queen II (s/n 42-108532) suffered extensive damage during the attack. Three photographers aboard, SSgt. Anthony J. Marchione, SSgt. Joseph M. Lacharite, and Sgt. John T. Houston were at the camera hatch at the rear of the aircraft when the plane was riddled with gunfire. Despite his own wounds, Lacharite administered first aid to the badly wounded Marchione, who was wounded again and died on the aircraft. This was the last confirmed aerial engagement of the Second World War, and Sgt. Marchione was the last confirmed Allied combat casualty of the war. Hobo Queen II claimed two Zeros destroyed in the action as well as a probable Tojo. As a result of this incident U.S. servicemen were ordered to cut the propellers off any Japanese aircraft they found to disable the aircraft.
The last B-32 combat photo reconnaissance mission was completed on August 28, during which two B-32s were destroyed in separate accidents, with 15 of the 26 crewmen killed. On August 30 the 386th Bomb Squadron stood down from operations. Production of the B-32 was cancelled on September 8, 1945, and ceased by October 12.
Many of these aircraft were delivered from the factory incomplete and were flown directly to Davis-Monthan Field, Tucson, Arizona for storage. Many were offered for sale for prices that ranged from $10,000 to $32,500, though no buyers were found. By 1947, most had been scrapped. In June 1947, Milton J. Reynolds, a pen manufacturer, announced his intention to purchase a B-32 and fly it around the world over both poles, but nothing came of this. B-32-1-CF, s/n 42-108474, was intended for display at the Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio, but the paperwork for the aircraft's transfer to the Museum disappeared, and the aircraft was scrapped at Davis-Monthan AFB in August 1949. The only remnant of a B-32 left is a static test wing panel erected as a monument to aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery mounted upright at the Montgomery Memorial near San Diego, California.
- XB-32-CO: 3
- B-32-1-CF: 10
- B-32-5-CF: 4
- B-32-20-CF: 20
- B-32-21-CF: 1
- B-32-25-CF: 25
- B-32-30-CF: 7
- B-32-35-CF: 7
- TB-32-5-CF: 11
- TB-32-10-CF: 25
- TB-32-15-CF: 4
Orders for a further 1,099 B-32-CFs and 499 B-32-COs were cancelled after VJ-Day.
- Crew: 10
- Length: 83 ft 1 in (25.3 m)
- Wingspan: 135 ft 0 in (41.2 m)
- Height: 33 ft 0 in (10.1 m)
- Wing area: 1,442 ft² (132.1 m²)
- Empty weight: 60,000 lb (27,000 kg)
- Loaded weight: 100,000 lb (45,000 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 111,500 lb (50,580 kg)
- Maximum speed: 357 mph (310 knots, 575 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 290 mph (252 knots, 467 km/h)
- Range: 2,600 nm (3,000 mi, 4,815 km)
- Service ceiling: 35,000 ft (11,000 m)
- Rate of climb: 658 ft/min (3.4 m/s)
- Wing loading: 70.3 lb/ft² (341 kg/m²)
- Encyclopedia of American Aircraft
- Fact Sheet on B-32 Dominator at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
- Bowman, Martin W., USAAF Handbook 1939-1945, ISBN 0-8117-1822-0
- Joe Baugher B-32 page
- B-29 Superfortress
- Lockheed XB-30
- Douglas XB-31
- XB-33 Super Marauder
- Avro Lincoln
- Messerschmitt Me 264
- Tupolev Tu-4
- USAAF: B-29 - XB-30 - XB-31 - B-32 - XB-33 - B-34 - YB-35
- Convair: 30 - 31 - 32 - 33 - 34 - 35 - 36 - 37
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