The Mighty A-26 Invader: US Air Force’s Prolific World War II Light Bomber Achieves Unprecedented Success
The A-26 Invader first flew in July 1942. The design was a successor to the Douglas A-20 Havoc, an aircraft with similar roles and layouts.
The Douglas A-26 bomber, also known as the B-26, is the only American bomber that had participated in three major wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
This is without a doubt a very successful US military aircraft, with more than 2,500 produced. It could also act as an attack aircraft. A range of guns could be fitted to produce a formidable ground-attack aircraft.
The A-26 Invader first flew in July 1942. The design was a successor to the Douglas A-20 Havoc, an aircraft with similar roles and layouts. Flight tests revealed excellent performance and handling, but engine-cooling problems led to cowling changes and elimination of the propeller spinners on production aircraft.
The early A-26 versions were built in two configurations: The A-26B gun-nose could be equipped with a combination of armament, including .50 caliber machine guns, 20 or 37mm auto cannon, or an experimental 75mm pack howitzer. The ‘B’ gun-nose version housed six (and later, eight) .50 caliber machine guns, officially the “all-purpose nose”, later known as the “six-gun nose” or “eight-gun nose”.
The A-26C’s “glass” “Bombardier nose”, contained a Norden bombsight for medium-altitude precision bombing. The A-26C nose section included two fixed M-2 guns, but those were eliminated after underwing gun packs or internal guns in the wings proved effective during colder weather.
Design of the A-26 Invader was typical of light attack bomber design in the Second World War. The fuselage was streamlined and contained the cockpit, bomb bay and gun positions. An Invader crew of three traditionally consisted of the pilot, navigator and gunner, the latter manning dorsal and ventral gun turrets. The C-model featured a bombardier crewmember along with two nose-mounted 12.7mm machine guns.
The Douglas Invader’s lethality was furthermore accented by the option of carrying between 4,000 and 8,000lbs of internal and external ordnance in the form of drop bombs or 8 to 14 x 5″ rockets. In fact, Invaders were known to be able to carry greater bombloads than that as found on the larger Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses.
When it was delivered in August 1943, the A-26 immediately became the fastest American bomber of World War 2. The system saw extensive action in varying roles throughout the conflict both in the European Front and along the Pacific Front. Invaders served through to the end of the war to which many served in the post-war world with the United States Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command.
In 1950 with the onset of the Korean war the Invader was one of the first aircraft to be brought to bear on the enemy. Now designated the B-26, it continued to see action until the end of hostilities in 1953. It was used almost exclusively on night missions. In 1954 it was phased out of the active Air Force inventory.