Consolidated XB-41

Last revised August 10, 1999






The one-off XB-41 was a long-range escort version of the B-24D Liberator. It was designed to fill a similar requirement as was the Boeing YB-40, namely, to provide escort for bombers penetrating German airspace.

The sole XB-41 was obtained by converting a Consolidated/San Diego-built B-24D-CO (serial number 41-11822). The conversion was carried out by Consolidated/Fort Worth and was delivered to Eglin Field, Florida on January 29, 1943. Additional guns were provided which brought the total armament to fourteen 0.50-inch machine guns. A second Martin A-3 power turret was added to the dorsal spine just behind the wing trailing edge. A Bendix remotely-controlled turret was added in a chin position underneath the nose, and the nose glazing was modified to give the operator of the Bendix turret a clear field of view. The cheek guns characteristic of the later B-24D were not fitted. A pair of power-boosted 0.50-inch machine guns were added at each waist position, replacing the single flexible mounts originally fitted. The original Martin A-3 power turret behind the cockpit was modified so that it could be raised during flight to increase its field of fire, then lowered to decrease aerodynamic drag when not in use. A total of 12,420 rounds of ammunition was carried, including 4000 reserve rounds carried in a box installed in the forward bomb bay. The additional weight of armor, guns and ammunition brought the gross weight up to 63,000 pounds, 6000 pounds heavier than a standard B-24D.

Tests were carried out at Eglin during the early winter of 1943. These tests indicated that the center of gravity was improperly located, which made the aircraft quite unstable in flight. In addition, the climbing rate and service ceiling were rather poor because of the additional weight. The port waist gun position had originally been covered by a plexiglas bubble, but this was found to cause severe optical distortion and was removed. Consequently, because of these problems, on March 21, 1943, the Army declared the XB-41 as being operationally unsuitable, and plans for thirteen YB-41 Liberator conversions were cancelled.

Undaunted, Consolidated continued to work on the XB-41 prototype, and equipped the aircraft with wide-blade propellers and subjected the plane to a weight-reduction program in which some of the armor was removed. On July 28, 1943, the XB-41 was returned to Eglin for more tests. Tests showed that the stability problem had been cured, but the aircraft was still plagued with poor maneuverability. In the meantime, the Boeing YB-40 had entered combat in Europe, and the initial results had demonstrated that the basic escort gunship concept was fundamentally flawed. The heavily-laden YB-40 escorts could not keep up with the bomber formations once they had dropped their bombs. As a result of the negative experience with the YB-40, further work on the XB-41 was abandoned. The sole XB-41 was later redesignated TB-24D and was used as an instructional airframe for training Liberator mechanics.

Sources:

  1. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1959.

  2. Liberator: America's Global Bomber, Alwyn T. Lloyd, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co, Inc, 1993.

  3. B-24 Liberator in Action, Larry Davis, Squadron/Signal Publications Inc, 1987.

  4. General Dynamics Aircraft and Their Predecesssors, John Wegg, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  5. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  6. American Combat Planes, 3rd Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.