Convair B-36

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The second series of FICON tests used the prototype YF-84F sweptwing Thunderstreak. The trapeze was much simpler than the one designed for the abortive XP-85 tests and proved much more effective. Of course, the more conventional handling qualities of the F-84 compared to the Goblin undoubtedly helped also.

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The B-36J was the final production version of the B-36. It had two additional fuel tanks, one on the outer panel of each wing, which increased the fuel load by 2770 gallons, for a total fuel capacity of 36,396 gallons. It also had a much stronger landing gear, permitting a gross takeoff weight as high as 410,000 pounds.

The YB-36J flew for the first time in July of 1953. The first production B-36J flew in September of 1953.

The last 14 B-36Js were manufactured as B-36J(III) featherweights, with all guns removed except the pair of cannon at the tail position. The crew was reduced to 13, and the blisters were replaced by flat windows. The reduction in weight enabled a service ceiling of 47,000 feet to be reached, although some missions were flow as high as 50,000 feet. In contrast to the other B-36 featherweights (which were modified after delivery), these planes were modified on the production line during manufacture.

A total of 33 B-36s were accepted, the last one (a III featherweight) being delivered on August 14, 1954.

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Convair’s B-36 long range bomber is well recognized by many attributes. It was America’s first true intercontinental heavy bombing platform and the Strategic Air Command’s initial deterrence weapon. Although its service life of just 10 operational years (1949 to 1959) was short in comparison to other aircraft conceived during the same time, such as the U-2, SR-71 and B-52, which still flies today; the B-36 was the first symbol of US air power during the early stages of the Cold War.

Unlike the U-2 Dragon Lady, the SR-71 Blackbird and B-52 Stratofortress, its eventual replacement, the massive B-36 was never assigned an official name by the US Air Force. Despite this sobering fact, today much of the world recognized the huge propellant pusher bomber as the ‘Peacemaker’. The history behind the name is as interesting as the aircraft’s own life cycle. It all started back in December 1948, when the Convairiety, the Consolidated Vaultee Aircraft Corporation’s newsletter, announced a dedication and naming contest for the new plane.

“Needed is a name appropriate to their size and purpose. A name which will be in keeping with the fine, historic traditions of Convair’s fighting ships in days gone by, the Liberators, Catalinas, Coronados and Vengeance dive bombers”, read the headlines of the piece. Further instructions were provided, “the name should be one word and should not be a ‘made-up’ combination. Duplication or possible confusion with another Army or Navy aircraft names should be avoided. Preference will be given to names which relates to the size, weight, power, range, purpose and mission of the B-36”.

Accordingly to the statement, entries will be allowed from 5th January until the 28th of February 1949, after which a judging committee composed of Amon Carter, the editor of the Dallas-based Fort Worth Star, Major General Rodger M. Ramey, the head of the Eight Air Force and Lamotte T. Cohu, Convair’s president; would pick a winner. Prize for the selected one was settled at 50 dollars, plus a barrage of publicity appearance.

In late 1949, the Air Force Munitions Board Aircraft Committee, the organization in charge of matters such as name tagging, gave the contest a passive approval, but with a caveat. In a January 1949 memo, the Board stated that “The MBAC reserve the right to chose any other name if desired”. Because of this, Convair modified the rules adding that “if some name submitted by a Convair employee other than the winner of the contest is subsequently selected by the Munitions Board, the employee who submitted the name chosen will also be awarded $50”.

Although the contest was not limited to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the plane was actually developed, the region accounted for more than 95% of the entrees, the rest came from the San Diego assembly plant section. Overall, 813 submissions were received, six hundred and forty (640) ballots from Texas and 173 out of California. Among the most popular proposed names out of Dallas were ‘Longhorn’, ‘Texas’, ‘Texans’, and ‘Gardua’. Others such as ‘Condor’ and ‘Crusader’ topped the San Diego-area submissions. Interesting enough, 60 entries (49 from Dallas, 11 out of San Diego) called for the name ‘Pacemaker’.

The word ‘Peacemaker’ has its roots in the Texas’ Old West. It was use to describe the powerful Colt .45 caliber revolver, often use as a deterrence mechanism. Most of the people who conjured the word did so believing that the B-36 would serve in a similar matter. “I think that this incredible plane will be like a Colt. A weapon people respect and feared. It maintained the peace in an un-settling time. So will the B-36”, said J.G. Bohn, a Fort Worth toolmaker who, along with J.L. McDaniels, L.R. Harris, C.W. Cannon, E.M. Wilson and G.E. McKenzie were chosen to represent all the winners.

Originally the announcement of the winner was slated for 30th March 1949. But due to a logistical mix up the judging committee did not receive the final ballots until the last week of February. The revelation of the selection was made on the April 1949 issue of Convairiety. “Convair proudly announce that….have won the B-36 naming contest. This would be forwarded to the AF Munitions Board Aircraft Committee for approval”, expressed the editorial section of the paper.

Sadly for Cohu, Bohn, McKenzie and all involved with the program, religious objections by various groups dissuaded the Air Force from branding the B-36, the Peacemaker, deferring the decision to a later date. But like most bureaucratic actions that are postponed, the official name-tagging of this amazing bomber was lost in the time. As of today, the AF Arsenal Registry has no official name is listed beside the B-36.

Variants

XB-36

Prototype powered by six 3,000 hp (2,200 kW) R-4360-25 engines and unarmed, one built.

YB-36

Prototype, s/n 42-13571, with modified nose and raised cockpit roof, one built later converted to YB-36A.

YB-36A

Former YB-36 with modified four-wheel landing gear, later modified as a RB-36E.

B-36A

Production variant, unarmed, used for training, 22 built, all but one converted to RB-36E.

XC-99

A cargo/transport version of the B-36. One built.

B-36B

Armed production variant with six 3,500 hp (2,600 kW) R-4360-41 engines, 73 built, later conversions to RB-36D and B-36D.

RB-36B

Designation for 39 B-36Bs temporarily fitted with a camera installation.

YB-36C

Projected variant of the B-36B with six 4,300 hp (3,200 kW) R-4360-51 engines driving tractor propellers, not built.

B-36C

Production version of the YB-36, completed as B-36Bs.

B-36D

Same as B-36B, but fitted with four J47-GE-19 engines, two each in two underwing pods, 22 built and 64 conversions from B-36B.

RB-36D

Strategic reconnaissance variant with two bomb bays fitted with camera installation, 17 built and seven conversions from B-36B.

GRB-36D

Same as RB-36D, but modified to carry a GRF-84F Thunderstreak on a ventral trapeze as part of the FICON program, 10 modified.

RB-36E

The YB-36A and 21 B-36As converted to RB-36D standards.

B-36F

Same as B-36D, but fitted with six 3,800 hp (2,800 kW) R-4360-53 engines and four J47-GE-19 engines, 34 built.

RB-36F

Strategic reconnaissance variant of the B-36F with additional fuel capacity, 24 built.

YB-36G

See YB-60.

B-36H

Same as B-36F with improved cockpit and equipment changes, 83 built.

NB-36H

One B-36H fitted with a nuclear reactor installation for trials, had a revised cockpit and raised nose. This was intended to evolve into the Convair X-6.

RB-36H

Strategic reconnaissance variant of the B-36H, 73 built.

B-36J

High altitude variant with strengthened landing gear, increased fuel capacity, armament reduced to tail guns only and reduced crew, 33 built.

YB-60

Originally designated the YB-36G, s/n 49-2676 and 49-2684. Project for a jet-powered swept wing variant. Due to the differences from a standard B-36 its designation was changed to YB-60.

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