Consolidated B-24 Liberator
Produced in larger numbers than any other American aircraft during the war (and any other four-engine aircraft in history) the Consolidated B-24 Liberator did not enter the design stage until 1939, and the prototype XB-24 was flown on 29 December that year. Minor development batches followed in 1940 before the first major production version, the B-24D, appeared late in 1941, A policy decision to concentrate B-24s primarily in the Pacific theatre (where the type's long range was used to good effect) resulted in most of the 2,738 B24Ds being deployed against Japan, but the 8th and 9th Air Forces in Europe and North Africa also received the aircraft, one of their outstanding raids being the attack on the Ploesti oil refineries on 1 August 1943. A total of 791 B-24E bombers with changed propellers was produced before production switched to the B-24G, of which 430 were built.
This version introduced a two-gun nose turret to counter German head-on fighter attacks and was followed by 3,100 B24H aircraft with various makes of nose turret. Major production version was the B-24J, of which 6,678 were built, incorporating a Motor Products nose turret, new-type autopilot and bombsight. The B-24L (1,667 built) featured two manually operated tail guns in a Consolidated turret, and the B-24M (2,593 built) introduced a Motor Products two-gun tail turret. This huge manufacturing effort (which produced a total of 18,313 aircraft in five and a half years) involved Consolidated, Douglas, Ford and North American plants, the total including many aircraft for the RAF (in which Liberators served with 42 squadrons) and US Navy (with whom Liberators served under the designation PB4Y) and also the 25passenger C-87 version, of which 282 were produced.
Specification Consolidated B-24J Liberator
Type: eight/ten-crew daylight medium/heavy bomber
Powerplant: four 1,200-hp (895-kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 radial piston engines
Performance: maximum speed 467 km/h (290 mph) at 7620m (25,000 ft); climb to 6096 m (20,000 ft) in 25 minutes; service ceiling 8535 m (28,000 ft); range 3220 km (2,000 miles) with a 3992-kg (8,800 lb) bombload
Weights: empty 16556 kg (36,500 lb); maximum take-off 29484 kg (65,000 lb)
Dimensions: span 33.53 m (110 ft 0 in); length 20.47 m (67 ft 2 in); height 5.49 m (18 ft); wing area 97.36 m2 (1,048.0 sq ft)
Armament: two-gun turrets in nose, tail, upper fuselage aft of cockpit and under centre fuselage, and single manual guns in waist (beam) positions for a total of 10 12,7-mm (0.5-m) machine-guns, plus a normal bombload of 3992 kg (8,800 lb)