In late 1942, the Australian government began to explore the possibility of manufacturing heavy bombers in Australia to equip the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The Liberator, by virtue of its excellent long-range characteristics, was a natural choice for the large distances that would be encountered by the RAAF in the Pacific theatre of operations.
However, at an early date it was deemed infeasible to manufacture the Liberator under license in Australia since it was already under production in several plants in the USA. Instead, the Avro Lancaster was chosen for Australian production. The war ended before such production could get under way, but 73 examples of the improved Lincoln version were built in Australia starting in 1946.
Although Australia had opted not to manufacture the Liberator, in late 1943, General George C. Kenney, the commander of Allied Air Forces in the South West Pacific Area, recommended that the RAAF form seven Liberator squadrons. The aircraft would be acquired from USAAF stocks, and the USAAF would assist the RAAF with both the procurement of the aircraft and the training of the crews. The RAAF personnel would be temporarily attached to the US Fifth Air Force while they gained experience in Liberator operations.
The first Liberators to be obtained by Australia were ex-USAAF B-24Ds. In February of 1944, twelve B-24Ds were obtained second-hand from USAAF stocks and delivered to Australia. They were assigned the RAAF serials A71-1 through 12. By this time, the B-24D was well past its prime, and was deemed suitable only for operational training, pending the arrival of more capable Liberator versions. These B-24Ds were assigned to No 7 Operational Training Unit based at Tocumwal, Victoria to carry out heavy bomber operational training for air crews. They served there until 1945. None ever saw any combat, and this unit was disbanded at the end of the war. A couple of RAAF B-24Ds lasted as late as 1952, when the last examples were finally struck off charge.
The definitive Liberators for RAAF service were to be the B-24J, L, and M versions, the first of which was delivered in May of 1944.
Serials of RAAF B-24Ds
RAAF serials USAAF designation USAAF Serials A72-1 B-24D-CO 41-11904 A72-2 B-24D-1-CO 41-23720 A72-3 B-24D-20-CO 41-24108 A72-4 B-24D-65-CO 42-40489 A72-5 B-24D-65-CO 42-40512 A72-6 B-24D-65-CO 42-40522 A72-7 B-24D-15-CO 41-24070 A72-8 B-24D-25-CO 41-24290 A72-9 B-24D-CO 41-11868 A72-10 B-24D-20-CO 41-24127 A72-11 B-24D-65-CO 41-40514 A72-12 B-24D-135-CO 42-41132