1 July 1954: The last Convair B-36 Peacemaker, B-36J-10-CF 53-2727, a Featherweight III variant, completed assembly at Fort Worth, Texas. The last B-36 built, this was also the very last of the 10-engine very long range heavy bombers in service. It was retired 12 February 1959. It is now in the collection of the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
Convair B-36J 52-2827 is one of 14 “Featherweight III” high altitude variants. It was built without the six retractable defensive gun turrets of the standard B-36, retaining only the two M24A1 20 mm autocannons in the tail. This reduced the crew requirement to 13. It is 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 9 inches (14.249 meters). The empty weight is 166,125 pounds (75,353 kilograms) and loaded weight is 262,500 pounds (119,068 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds (185,973 kilograms).
The B-36J has ten engines. There are six 4,362.5 cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter) Pratt and Whitney R-4360-53 Wasp Major air-cooled, supercharged 28-cylinder four-row radial engines, producing 3,800 horsepower, each, were located inside the wings, turning 19 foot (5.791 meter) diameter three-bladed propellers in a pusher configuration. Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines, producing 5,200 pounds of thrust, each, are suspended under the wings in two-engine pods.
The B-36J Featherweight III had a cruise speed of 230 miles per hour (370.2 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 418 miles per hour (672.7 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 43,600 feet (13,289.3 meters) and its combat radius was 3,985 miles (6,413 kilometers). The maximum range was 10,000 miles (16,093 kilometers).
Designed during World War II when nuclear weapons were unknown, the bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in two bomb bays. It could carry the 43,600 pound (19,776.6 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb, or several Mk.15 thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 15-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.
Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only five still exist.
© 2015, Bryan R. Swopesby