On June 26, 1948, the 7th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, received the United States Air Force’s first Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation (“Convair”) B-36A,
a six-engine, very long range heavy bomber. Its mission was to serve as a nuclear-capable deterrent until the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress came into service five years later. A total of 22 B-36As were delivered by February 1949. These were not armed and were used for crew training. Most were later converted by Convair to RB-36E reconnaissance bombers, beginning in 1950.
The B-36A differed from the XB-36 prototype in several areas, but two features were the most apparent: The cockpit had been completely revised and now covered by a large dome. The single-wheel main landing gear was replaced by four-wheel bogies to better spread the airplane’s weight over the runway surface.
(Above) A crew of thirteen airmen with their Convair B-36A-10-CF Peacemaker, 44-92014. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas).
The B-36A was 162.1 feet (49.4 meters) long with a wingspan of 230.0 feet (70.1 meters) and overall height of 46.8 feet (14.3 meters). The wings had 2° dihedral, an angle of incidence of 3° and -2° twist. The wings’ leading edges were swept aft to 15° 5′. The airplane’s total wing area was 4,772 square feet. Its empty weight was 135,020 pounds. The combat weight was 212,800 pounds (96,524 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) was 310,380 pounds.
The initial production version of the Peacemaker was powered by six air-cooled, supercharged, 4,362.5 cubic-inch-displacement Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major R-4360 Pusher (R-4360-25) four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines rated at 2,500 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 37,000 feet, and 3,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. Each engine drove a 19-foot (5.791 meter) three-bladed propeller through a 0.381:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-25 was 9 feet, 1.75 inches long and 4 feet, 4.50 inches in diameter. It weighed 3,483 pounds.
The six radial engines gave the bomber a maximum speed of 300 knots (345 miles per hour) at 31,600 feet. It took 53 minutes for the giant airplane to climb to an altitude of 20,000 feet. The service ceiling for the B-36A was 39,100 feet, and combat ceiling was 35,800 feet. The ferry range was 9,136 miles.