B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

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B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Kitsune » 2014-03-20 05:13pm

All four of these aircraft were produced during World War II and the A-26 (redesignated the B-26) operated for a significant time after the war.

The A-20 and A-26 seem to be significantly faster than the B-25 and B-26. The B-26 is a bit faster than the B-25 as well.

Is there a good reason why all four were produced? Are there roles where you would want to send a B-25 instead of a A-26?
Looks like the A-26 can carry around the same bomb load as the B-25 and speed is life with bombers.
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Kitsune » 2014-03-20 06:01pm

Edit: I want to make it clear here that I am not arguing that there are not good reasons.
What I am curious is what are those reasons? Are they envisioned for different roles for example?
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Jub » 2014-03-20 06:10pm

Not knowing about this specifically, but I'd guess that the designs likely used different engines as they tended to be the bottleneck for WWII era planes.

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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Kitsune » 2014-03-20 06:21pm

Jub wrote:Not knowing about this specifically, but I'd guess that the designs likely used different engines as they tended to be the bottleneck for WWII era planes.
The B-25 and A-20 used the PW R-2600 while the B-26 and A-26 used the PW R-2800
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Isolder74 » 2014-03-20 06:21pm

To start with the B-25 was very easy to fly making it very quick to deploy new crew in. This is one reason so many were used. Also because of its large wing area it could take off and land under very low speeds allowing it to manage very short take offs. This also meant that it remained maneuverable even at low speed. There is a reason it was the plane used for the Doolittle Raid. It was also fast to build and repair because of the way the engines are mounted.

The B-26 is another matter. The aircraft had a problem of a very low wing to weight ratio making it very hard to fly. It soon gained a reputation of being a widow maker. This made it very unpopular with pilots. It was faster the the B-25 and had a larger payload.

The A-20 was used mainly by the French, British and the Soviet Union. The A-20 as a design did not impress the US Army so did not secure a large contract. The British bought only a limited amount preferring the Mosquito but they did 'inherit' the remaining portion of the French contract build run after the fall of France. It carried 4,000 pounds of bombs plus 2,000 pounds of bombs externally. It saw a large deployment through Lend-Lease in the Soviet Union.

The A-26 is similar in design but proved more popular with the US Army. It did see a wide deployment in the Pacific theatre. The plane had better performance when compared to the A-20 and had the same bomb load. A-26 pilots did complain about the visibility from the cockpit was less then ideal for engaging naval targets.

In the case of WWII aircraft, there was a large amount of overlap between the usage, deployment and production of many of the Allied aircraft models and wartime production of many aircraft was as much determined by political situations as they were by battlefield performance. The A-20, since it did not gain a large US contract was only built in small numbers for foreign customers because of the Isolationist movement and the included neutrality laws.

Edit: Autocorrect should know how it's and its works! I types ITS!
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Simon_Jester » 2014-03-20 06:23pm

Just comparing the B-25 and B-26:

The B-26- and this is important- used different engines. Like Jub said. And to go into more detail... its engines were also used on the F6F and F8F carrier fighters, and the P-47 Thunderbolt.

Now, think about aircraft production. As long as your country has a big supply of sheet aluminum and big enough lofts to bend it into an airplane-shape in, you really can't fail to produce enough airplane fuselages. They're not that hard to make. What's problematic is producing the engines, which are large blocks of heavy hardware, made of the toughest available materials to the highest possible tolerances of precision machining. Aircraft engines are expensive, plus they have a limited service life so for every engine now mounted on an airplane, you need a constant stream of spare parts produced from the same assembly lines that built the engine in the first place.

So, just look at the facts: the B-26 and the P-47 both use the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine. The P-47 uses one; the B-26 uses two. If you're trying to build a large air force, the first thing you do is build engines as fast as you possibly can. And assuming you're already doing that, each time an engine rolls off the assembly line you must choose whether it goes in a P-47 or a B-26.

Therefore, every twin-engine B-26 built means two single-engine P-47s, that you could probably have built... but decided not to. And since the P-47 is in heavy demand as an escort fighter and fighter-bomber, building up a large B-26 force requires you to pay a heavy cost in terms of the strength of your fighter arm. Plus, the Army Air Corps' demand for Double Wasp engines in both B-26s and P-47s is in direct competition with the Navy's demand. They need the Double Wasp to power the Hellcat and Bearcat, which are among the few fighters the Navy has capable of taking on and beating up Japanese Zeroes.

And that's before we even talk about any demand for the engines in any other planes- while those are the most famous aircraft using the R-2800, they are far from the only ones.

Meanwhile, the R-2600 was in demand too, but not in so much demand because it wasn't being used to power a third of the major frontline aircraft designs in the United States military.
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Isolder74 » 2014-03-20 06:29pm

The engine situation also brings up the fact that because of its small wing load, the B-26 was a very hard plane to fly. A plane that is not popular with pilots does not tend to get deployed as much when other aircraft are demanding the same engines.
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Kitsune » 2014-03-20 06:38pm

Using the Bearcat is a very bad example. . . It was a late war aircraft that never entered combat.
I love the aircraft but don't see it really as being part of this discussion
A huge number of aircraft used the R-2800 which did enter combat including the P-47, P-61, F4U, and F6F.

One of my specific issues is that the B-26 and A-26 use the same engines while the A-26 appears to be faster, same of better range, and better payload. The A-26 also stayed in service long past the end of the war. Do also note that it has a crew of 3 vs 7 so not a fortress type defense.
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Isolder74 » 2014-03-20 07:00pm

That is probably why the A-26, redesignated the B-26, was still in service and the B-26 units were slowly retired. They basically started calling the A-26 the B-26 and used it instead.

While the B-26 is noted to have smaller per unit combat losses, it was the constantly being lost in take-off and landing accidents. Due to the reputation as being a widow maker, Martin took the unusual step during war, of commissioning large articles to be placed in various popular publications, educating and defending the so-called flying/accident record of the B-26 against slanders(heaven forbid that pilots complain about a plane being difficult to land). It didn't help much.

As most of the operational A-26 units were being sent to Pacific, its deployment did suffer from the demand for Hellcats by the carrier forces. A-26's in contrast to the B-26 were still being deployed well into the Vietnam War.
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2014-03-20 07:23pm

The A-26 is a direct evolution of the A-20 and only appeared in late 1944.

The A-20 is also substantially lighter then the B-25/26 and was originally designed as a light attack bomber for frontline use, however the Air Corps was not super interested by the time it was ready for prodcution, having become fascinated by dive bombers in Spain, and so it actually only entered production for France around 1939. When France fell the remainder of that order was diverted to the UK, and the US soon after commenced its 1940 mobilize plan which called for as bloody many planes as possible RIGHT NOW, thus further mass production of the type. However it was not particularly popular for US service, being not enough plane for the crew size as far as the USAAF was concerned and so large numbers ended up passed on to the British and Soviets and other allied forces.

The B-25 and B-26 came out of the same general requirement, but used different engines, and the B-26 was better suited to high altitude operations. Both planes later had dedicated high altitude redesigns (utterly for the B-25), XB-28 and XB-33 but neither entered production. Oh and the XB-33 couldn’t decide if it had two or four engines. MINOR DETAIL!

Both planes also had protracted developments, being improvements on prewar types which were built only as prototypes with different. Come 1940, France just fell, the US need for modern bombers was so great (since oh about zero existed at that point) that both were ordered into immiedate production. In fact they were not properally prototyped and tested prior to being ordered by the thousands. This was a compelling reason to order both, least one prove to be a disaster. As well the different engines removed a potential production bottleneck, and it was not as easy as apple cake to order one company to build another’s aircraft design. Let alone when that design was not even a prototype.

Generally B-25s tended to go to the Pacific theater and B-26s to Europe but this was not at all a hard rule.

So that’s why you have four different twin engine bombers in the USAAF. Considering the Nazis had at some points I don’t think I can even count that high, and the British five or six at once without even considering late war developments, this was perfectly reasonable for the war. Japan had hoards, Italy had what, three different trimotors? Even the USSR which had a slightly more standard air force then most folks had the Pe-2, Tu-2 and Il-4 going at the same time, without even considering all it lend lease types.

WW2 was so huge for aviation that diversity of aircraft designs was not really a big deal for the major powers, though Italy and Japan did suffer on this as many planes were produced with no economy of scale. Standardization of engines was more important in general, and the US did as well as anyone could have on that. The Germans actually ran into problems on going perhaps too far this, when they ended up with too many designs competing for the same powerplants.
Isolder74 wrote: As most of the operational A-26 units were being sent to Pacific, its deployment did suffer from the demand for Hellcats by the carrier forces. A-26's in contrast to the B-26 were still being deployed well into the Vietnam War.
It would be rather illogical don't you think to keep flying a bomber basically from 1939 in design, when you could fly one four years later in design? This doesn't really say much about the B-26. Remember timeline wise this is a comparison of a B-17C to a B-29. Its like pointing out people still were flying Corsairs in the Soccer War but not P-40s.

On the other hand Spain was still flying the He 111 in the 1970s, and not in small numbers... but Franco was a bit crazy later on.

As for the landing issue, it was largely mythical, but myths can be very hard to get rid of in wartime scuttlebutt, and all aircraft were suffering high accident rates due to the vast supply of inexperienced aircrews, many given very limited trainer time before going right to a high performance aircraft.
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Simon_Jester » 2014-03-21 04:02pm

Kitsune wrote:Using the Bearcat is a very bad example. . . It was a late war aircraft that never entered combat.
I love the aircraft but don't see it really as being part of this discussion
A huge number of aircraft used the R-2800 which did enter combat including the P-47, P-61, F4U, and F6F.
Sorry, I listed the Bearcat when I shouldn't have. That said the Hellcat was one of the two premier fighters of the USN in the late war period, so I think it makes up for the deficiency.

I honestly did not know the F4U used the R-2800 in large numbers, and wasn't sure if enough P-61s were produced to matter... so I stuck to the planes I thought had been mass-produced.
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Re: B-25, B-26, A-20, and A-26

Post by Kitsune » 2014-03-21 08:05pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
Kitsune wrote:Using the Bearcat is a very bad example. . . It was a late war aircraft that never entered combat.
I love the aircraft but don't see it really as being part of this discussion
A huge number of aircraft used the R-2800 which did enter combat including the P-47, P-61, F4U, and F6F.
Sorry, I listed the Bearcat when I shouldn't have. That said the Hellcat was one of the two premier fighters of the USN in the late war period, so I think it makes up for the deficiency.

I honestly did not know the F4U used the R-2800 in large numbers, and wasn't sure if enough P-61s were produced to matter... so I stuck to the planes I thought had been mass-produced.
While not produced in large numbers, I kind of have a soft spot for the black Widow. Had a model of it as a kid.
"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."
Thomas Paine

"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten."
Ecclesiastes 9:5 (KJV)

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