The Douglas A-26 Invader is a twin-engined light bomber, with tricycle landing gear wich was built by the Douglas Aircraft corp in Long Beach California during the Second World War It was a fast aircraft capable of carrying a large bomb load.
It had an ample of various of armament to make a formidable ground attack aircraft. It had 6 to 8 50 cal browning machine guns in the nose and 8 .50 Cal Browning M2 machine guns in the wing. Low flight and strafing ground targets was it’s speciality.
The primary users of the A-26 (in 1948 the designation was changed to B-26) was the United states Army Air Force, United States Navy and French Air Force. The B-26 was retired military service in 1980 by the last user, Colombian Air Force.
The XA-26 prototype
Design and Development
The A-26 was the successor to the Douglas A-20 Havoc also know as the Douglas Boston. The A-20 was one of the most successful and widely used aircraft by the Allies of World War II.
Chief aerodynamicist A.M.O. Smith was the head of the project to design the XA-26 that was ready for flight in July 1942 from Mines Field in El Segundo, California (future home of LAX).
The test flight conducted by Benny Howard, proved to be highly successful. The aircraft handled well but engine overheat problem needed correction thru modifying the engine cowl flaps.
The nose wheel assembly need to be reinforced as during the testing, it collapsed several times. The A-26 was built with two different configurations. The A-26B had gun nose that could house .50 cal machine guns or 37mm auto cannon or even a pack howitzer (which was never used operationally).
The A-26C had a glass nose to house the Norden bombsight for precision bombing. The firs models had two M-2 machine guns in the nose, but later upgrades of the A-26C had underwing gun packs or internal guns in the wing.
Other modifications and refinement are : The A-26B could house up to 14 .50 cal machine guns in forward fixed mounts. The A-26B nose could be replaced on the A-26C and vice versa in a matter of a few hours.
In some of the final versions , both A-26B and A-26C “flat top”canopies were replaced by a clamshell style which greatly improved visibility.
The interior of the A-26 cockpit
Along side of the pilot on the A-26B a crew member sat as the Navigator and Gun Loader . In the A-26C the crew member serviced as the Navigator and Bombardier .
Like the RAF bombers Lancaster, Blenheim/Beaufort and Wellington, most of the time the A-26 had only one set of controls for the pilot only. A small number of aircraft did have dual controls mainly for training purposes.
The first A-26B was delivered to United States Army Air Force in August 1943. The Fifth Air Force had to train the crews then they were deployed to the Southwest Pacific for combat evaluation with attacks on Manokwari a Japanese island in the South Pacific.
The repot back was not good, the evaluating pilots found the cockpit view to be restricted because of the location of the engines. This they said prevented low-level attack.
General George Kenney Commander of the Far EAst Air Force said “We do not want the A-26 under any circumstances to be a replacement for anything”.
The A-26 was used only sparingly in the Pacific for the remainder of the War. However things looked better for the A-26 and Douglas Aircraft when A-26s stared arriving in Europe in late September 1944 for their assignment to the Ninth Air Force.
There were 8 “test missions” that the A-26 was sent on. This time the type of mission was more suitable, as a bomber which was the original mission for the A-26 Invader.
Soon the Ninth Air Force announced that they would replace all of their A-20 Havoc and B-26 Marauder aircraft with the Douglas A-26 Invader.
Besides bombing and strafing, tactical recon and night interdiction missions were all undertaken successfully . In a contrast to the Pacific based crews, the European crews received the A-26 with a very positive attitude.
In the European Theater the Invader flen 11,567 sorties, dropped 18,054 tons of bombs and recorded 7 victories (remember this was a bomber) while losing 67 aircraft.
With the establishment of the United States Air Force in 1947, the A-26 was redesignated the B-26 and used as an recon aircraft by USAF The USN obtained the Invader from the USAF for target towing and other utility functions.
During the Korean conflict the B-26 Invaders were among the first USAF aircraft to sent on missions in North and South Korea. On 29 June 1950, a squadron of Invaders bombed the first target in North Korea which was an airfield.
The B-26 continued to fly missions through-out the Korean War, mostly night -time missions.
But land target was it’s speciality as it destroyed 38,500 vehicles, 406 locomotives and 3,700 railway cars. The B-26 units received two unit citations and the Presidential Citation. The Invader carried out the last USAF mission of the Korean War before the Armistice Agreement was signed.
During the Southeast Asian conflict a few years later, the B-26 Invader was used to fight the Pathet Lao invaders that were invading Laos. The B-26 were used in the Southeast Asian theater for number of years for ground attack purposes.
They were replaced by the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. In later years the CIA used B-26s for clandestine operations in Central and South America.
Other countries that used the B-26 Invader were France, Indonesia, Portugal and Biafra.
Where you can see the Douglas A-26 Invader
436874 Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach, Virginia
446928 National Naval Aviation Museum Pensacola, Florida
Lady Liberty Commemorative Air Force Enid, Oklahoma
City of Santa Rosa Pacific Coast Air Museum Santa Rose, California
322494 Pima Air and Space Museum Tucson, Arizona
This is Just a Partial List of the Douglas A-26 Invader, Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information
TECH SPECS ON THE A-26 INVADER
Wingspan: 70 ft 0 in
Length: 50 ft 0 in
Height: 18 ft 3 in
Weight: 22,850 lbs (empty) 35,000 lbs (MGTOW*) (* Max Gross Takeoff Weight)
Max Speed: 356 mph
Ceiling: 22,000 ft
Range: 3,400 (combat)
Engine: 2/Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 Double Wasp radial engine rated at 2,000 hp
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