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A ME R ICA N A ERO SPAC E A RC H I V E 3

THE B-52 COMPETITION OF 1946


...and Dark Horses from Douglas, 1947-1950

Jared A. Zichek
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n the third issue of The American tion and inspire researchers to dig fur- Cover: Artist's impression of Convair's
Aerospace Archive, we take an in- ther into the tumultuous developmental extraordinary Long Range Heavy Bom-
depth look at two of the original three history of this legendary aircraft. bardment Airplane, one of the losing
proposals for the B-52 competition of contenders in the heavy bombardment
competition of 1946. This and all other
1946; offer speculation on the third Background images in this publication are scanned
based on available evidence; and exam- from original documents found in RG 341
ine some later dark horse contenders The origins of the B-52 can be of the National Archives in College, Park,
from Douglas. This is not a comprehen- traced back to August 15, 1944, when MD, unless otherwise indicated.
sive history of the complicated evolution the engineering division at Wright field
of the Boeing B-52 design - that would recommended that a design study for a 1) Artist's impression of the Boeing Model
require an entire book, and the general jet-propelled/turboprop heavy bomber 462, winner of the competition. It would
story of that evolution has already been be undertaken in FY1946; the study subsequently be replaced by the Model
ably told elsewhere. Instead, the aim is 464, which underwent a radical evolution
was to cost $650,000 and development
before emerging as the swept wing, jet-
to shed more light on some of the design of the airplane to cost $16 million be- powered XB-52 in 1951.
submissions connected to the competi- tween FY1947 and FY1949. The type
The American Aerospace Archive is published periodically by Jared A. Zichek (6021 La Jolla Hermosa Ave, La Jolla, California 92037) and is printed and distributed by MagCloud
(www.jaredzichek.magcloud.com). American Aerospace Archive Number 3 (ISSN 1943-9636) is copyright 2009 by Jared A. Zichek. All rights reserved. All featured text and im-
ages are copyright 2009 their respective copyright holders. Reproduction of any material in part or in whole without its creator's permission is strictly forbidden. The American
Aerospace Archive accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, photos, art or other materials. Submissions are considered on an invitational basis only. Email your
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was sought as an eventual replacement characteristics. At the time, the Military Characteristics for Heavy Bombardment Aircraft
for the Convair XB-36, work on which requirements were beyond the November 23, 1945
had started in early 1941. Before its first state of the art, with a suitable High speed at tactical operating altitude 450 mph
flight on August 8, 1946, the Army Air turboprop engine taking up to
Force (AAF) was already concerned that 10 years to develop, according to Tactical operating altitude 35,000 ft
the giant bomber would not meet its some experts. Due to the lack of
Service ceiling 40,000 ft
mission radius requirement or be able a suitable engine, the AAF asked
to survive over enemy airspace without the industry to approximate the
Tactical operating radius (take off point to
escort fighters. In April 1945, the AAF requirements as best as it could, target) at design gross weight with 5,000
requested Boeing to undertake a design with emphasis being placed on 10,000 lb bomb statute
study for a heavy turboprop successor meeting the high speed require- miles
to the B-36. Boeing and its competitors ment.2 Average speed for above radius 300 mph
declined to submit proposals because Boeing, Convair and Mar- Maximum (internal) bomb load 80,000 lbs
the desired characteristics were “so com- tin would each submit propos-
Crew accommodations for at least 12: pilot, copilot, flight
pletely out of line with the state of the als to fulfill these demanding engineer, one bombardier-navigator, one radio operator,
art." On November 23, 1945, the AAF requirements. The first one we the minimum number of fire control operators deemed
released "Military Characteristics for will examine is the winner, the necessary, and a six person relief crew.
Heavy Bombardment Aircraft," require- Boeing Model 462. efforts toward development and coordi-
ments for a “high speed, high altitude, nation of developmental activities sur-
long range, land airplane” shown in the Boeing Model 462 rounding many component elements,
table at right.1 particularly power plants. Derived from
In February 1946, the Air Techni- In the first half of 1946, Boeing a series of design studies and based on
cal Service Command (ATSC) issued submitted its Model 462 to the heavy the results of extensive operational expe-
a Request for Proposals (RFP) to the bombardment competition. The follow- rience with the B-29, this conclusion was
aviation industry for designs to “meet ing information about the design comes exemplified by the Model 462, which
or approximate” the November 1945 from the proposal brochure dated June Boeing described as "...the most practi-
27, 1946.3 cal airplane possible with developments
2) General arrangement drawing and ba- Boeing noted that significant ad- available for a design program initiated
sic characteristics of the Model 462 taken vances in heavy bombardment airplane at this time." Only through full utiliza-
from the brochure dated June 27, 1946. design were contingent upon concerted
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tion of design potentialities was it pos- Description 3) Another artist's impression of the Boe-
sible to propose an airplane with char- ing Model 462, the general design of
acteristics approaching those established The Boeing Model 462 was a high which owed a great deal to the company's
by the design directive. wing monoplane powered by six Wright experience with the B-29.
In selecting basic design parameters T-35 combustion turbine engines geared
such as power plants, gross weight and to 20 ft diameter tractor propellers. The bay. Access to the bomb bay during
wing area, primary consideration was exterior configuration was characterized pressurized flight was available to crew
given to speed and range characteristics. by particular attention to aerodynamic members through an air lock to a tun-
Boeing believed that the Model 462 was cleanness in basic layout as well as detail nel which joined the crew compartment
the largest and hence the longest range considerations, and by control and stabi- and the forward section of the bomb bay.
airplane which would satisfy speed re- lizing surfaces designed to maintain the In order to simplify nacelle and landing
quirements with the selected engines. reputation of Boeing airplanes for stabil- gear design problems, it was proposed
Provision for external droppable fuel ity and ease of control. The crew of ten to study carefully a main landing gear
tanks effectively increased the range was accommodated in a single pressur- configuration in which one of 4 landing
without sacrifice in speed at gross weight ized compartment forward of the wing gear units retracted into each of the four
less one half fuel. from which all flight and combat func- inboard nacelles.
The configuration and basic design tions of the airplane were conducted.
of the Model 462 was optimized within The large bomb bay was located under Power Plant
the limitations imposed by existing ele- the wing center section near the center
ments and development considerations. of gravity of the airplane. Self-sealing The Model 462 was powered by six
fuel tanks were installed in areas for- Wright T-35 combustion turbine engines
ward of, above, and behind the bomb rated at 5,000 hp each. Driving 20 ft di-

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ameter, single rotation, four blade high opments in fuel systems, cooling provi- Armament
activity propellers, these engines were sions, jet exhaust arrangements, fire de-
mounted in nacelles arranged to permit tection and prevention, etc. The effectiveness of the Model 462
complete interchangeability of power Fuel capacity was divided between was increased by its ability to deliver
sections in the form of a quickly change- the wings, the fuselage and the bomb bomb combinations in all sizes up to
able power package. Thus, although na- bay. Of the 16,040 gallons carried in the and including the 44,000 lb “Grand
celles had increased in number from the wing fuel system, 9,700 gallons were pro- Slam.” The 36 ft bomb bay provided am-
B-29, problems related to maintenance tected by self-sealing tanks. The fuselage ple space for consideration of advanced
and overhaul were greatly minimized. contained provisions for 8,370 gallons in methods of bomb loading and release.
Boeing planned an extensive pre- self-sealing tanks and capacity for 7,850
liminary study devoted to the determi- gallons of fuel in self-sealing droppable
nation of optimum spinner, cowl, and bomb bay tanks, increasing the potential
propeller cuff configurations such that fuel capacity to a total of 32,260 gallons. 4) Cutaway view of the Model 462; note
the massive 44,000 lb T12 bomb shown in
the most efficient air inlet conditions In addition, provision was made for
the bomb bay.
would be achieved. In addition, the droppable wing tanks to accommodate
basic problems surrounding combus- approximately 6,500 gallons. 5) Close-up cutaway of the giant bomb-
tion turbine installation would be given er's nose section. The Model 462 would
thorough initial consideration in order have carried a crew of 10, though only 9
to assure availability of the latest devel- are shown here.
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Defensive armament consisted of 4 two-gun
turrets and 1 four-gun tail turret, all of which were
armed with 20 mm guns. All guns were controlled
from four stations in the crew compartment be-
tween which operation of the turrets could have
been exchanged. Turret locations provided a 3600
field of fire with at least four guns, with the excep-
tion of a very small area which was covered by two
guns. Since performance of the Model 462 was
based upon minimum drag, full consideration
was given to the development and utilization of
flush turrets and radar.

Summary

It was anticipated that an extended program


of aerodynamic, power plant, equipment installa-
tion, and structural development would proceed as
a part of Phase I. Only through this coordination
in early design stages could the AAF be assured of
satisfactory progress in carrying out Phase II.
The airplane performance estimated by Boe-
ing was premised on a program of extensive and
thorough investigation of new materials, new
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as sandwich type construction, different methods
of joining structure, new means of increasing the
efficiency of stressed skins, and study of aerody-
namic devices such as sealed, low drag control sur-
faces and full span flaps. The use of combustion
turbine power necessitated an exhaustive study
of cowling, induction system, cooling, and other
design problems associated with the relatively un-
explored field of turbine engine installation. Boe-
ing argued for the adoption of such a plan early in
Phase I, as it would substantially reduce the time
required for later development phases and would
be of tremendous assistance in the creation of
prototype models, a factor of paramount consid-
eration relating to the development of an aircraft
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in this class.
Boeing believed that the Model 462, as ba-
sically conceived in the brief studies conducted
up to that point and supplemented by the above
type of research, would represent the optimum

6) Side views of the Model 462 engine nacelles. The


aircraft was powered by 6 Wright T-35 turboprops
producing 5,000 hp each. The forward sections
were interchangeable to simplify maintenance and
overhaul.

7) Illustration showing various bomb load possibili-


ties, ranging from eighty-four 500 pound bombs to
one enormous 44,000 lb bomb.

8) Weight breakdown of the Boeing Model 462.


With a design gross weight of 360,000 lbs, it was the
heaviest of the three contenders.

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configuration for a heavy bombardment As will be seen later in this monograph, 9) Artist's impression and top view of
airplane designed to fulfill the require- Boeing’s model was, by far, the largest the Model 462. The defensive gun tur-
ments of the AAF as expressed in the aircraft proposed, even heavier than the rets retracted flush into the fuselage and
requirements set forth on February 13, B-36, which was less than a year away contributed to the type's overall aerody-
namic cleanness.
1946. from its first flight.
On May 23, 1946 General Craigie,
Victory Chief of the Engineering Division, rec- believed that Boeing's proposal repre-
ommended that the AAF accept the sented the best performance per dollar,
Although the high gross weight of Boeing Model 462 for Phase I develop- in addition to “most nearly [meeting]
360,000 lbs was necessary to attain the ment “in view of the results of this evalu- the requirements set forth in the Mili-
range and speed proposed, Boeing’s ation and the outstanding record of Boe- tary Characteristics than either of the
model fell short of the range required ing Aircraft Company in the building of other two proposals, and further has
(5,000 miles radius/13,000 miles range). heavy bombardment aircraft….” Craigie far greater potentialities.” During the