On 12 February 1959, after 4 years, 5 months, 30 days service, the Air Force returned the Convair B-36J-75-CF Peacemaker bomber, serial number 52-2827, to Fort Worth. #52-2827 departed Biggs Air Force Base at 11:00 a.m., under the command of Major Frederick J. Winter. Other pilots were Colonel Gerald M. Robinson, commanding the 95th Wing, and Captain Wilson P. Smith. (Colonel Robinson flew as first pilot during the takeoff, while Major Winter flew the landing.)
Convair B-36J-75-CF (S/N 52-2827, the last production B-36J). (U.S. Air Force photo).
The bomber’s crew was hand-picked, and included two navigators, two flight engineers, an observer, two radio operators, two gunners and a crew chief. Ten newspaper, radio and television reporters were on board as well.
The gigantic bomber was the very last of the strategic bombers built by the Convair Division of General Dynamics at Fort Worth, Texas. It was completed 1 July 1954 and on 14 August, it was delivered to the Strategic Air Command, 92nd Bombardment Wing, Heavy, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. In April 1957, 52-2827 was assigned to the 95th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, at Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, Texas.
The B-36 touched down at Amon Carter Field at 2:55 p.m. The Peacemaker’s log book was closed out with a total of 1,414 hours, 50 minutes of flight time.
After a ceremony attended by thousands, the bomber was officially retired. A bugler blew “Taps,” and then the Peacemaker was towed away. It was put on display at Amon Carter Field. After decades of neglect, the bomber was placed in the care of the Pima Air and Space Museum at Tucson for restoration and display. The B-36J #52-2827 is one of 14 “Featherweight III” high altitude variants. It was built without the six retractable defensive gun turrets of the standard B-36, retaining only the two M24A1 20mm auto-cannons in the tail. This reduced the crew requirement to 13. It is 162 feet, 1 inch long with a wingspan of 230 feet and overall height of 46 feet, 9 inches The empty weight is 166,125 pounds and loaded weight is 262,500 pounds. Maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds.
The B-36J has ten engines. There are six air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49 cubic-inch-displacement (71.488 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major C6 (R-4360-53) four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines placed inside the wings in a pusher configuration. These had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 115/145 aviation gasoline. The R-4360-53 had a Normal Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 rpm Its Military Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,800 rpm, and 3,800 horsepower at 2,800 rpm with water injection—the same for Takeoff. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible propellers with a diameter of 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-53 is 9 feet, 9.00 inches long, 4 feet, 7.00 inches in diameter, and weighs 4,040 pounds.
Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines are suspended under the wings in two-engine pods. The J47 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with a 12-stage compressor section, 8 combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The J47-GE-19 was modified to run on gasoline and was rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust.
The bomber had a cruise speed of 230 miles per hour and a maximum speed of 418 miles per hour. The service ceiling was 43,600 feet and its combat radius was 3,985 miles. The maximum range was 10,000 miles.
The B-36 was designed during World War II, nuclear weapons were unknown to the Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation engineers. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds of conventional bombs in the four-section bomb bay. It could carry the 43,600 pound T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb. When armed with nuclear weapons, the B-36 could carry several Mk.15 3.8 megaton thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 15-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.
Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only four still exist. # 52-2827 was the last B-36 built and was also the last operational B-36.