12/31/2010. Designed to a USAAC requirement written in 1940, the A-26 was developed and put into production with great rapidity, reaching the European theatre of operations before the end of 1944. Although numbers up to XA-45 were assigned, the A-26 also proved to be the last important operational aircraft produced in the "attack" category. The specification called for a multi-purpose light bomber capable of fast attack operations at low level as well as precision bombing from medium altitudes, and carrying a powerful defensive armament.
Three prototypes were ordered in June 1941, and the first of these, the XA-26 (s/n 41-19504), was first flown on July 10, 1942. This prototype was completed as the basic bomber, with a bomb-aimer's station in the nose. The second prototype, XA-26A (s/n 41-19505) was armed as a night fighter, with four 0.787 in (20 mm) machineguns in the belly and four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machineguns in the top turret, remotely sited and fired from a gunner's position amidships. The third prototype, XA-26B (s/n 41-19588), included a 2.95 in (75 mm) cannon, nose-mounted, in its armament.
Flight testing of these three prototypes, and combat reports from Europe and the Pacific area, led to adoption of the A-26B as the production model. Like the XA-26B, this had an "attack" nose, but the large-bore cannon gave way to six 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machineguns; dorsal and ventral turrets, both remotely controlled, had two more 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machineguns in each. The armament could be supplemented by eight more 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machineguns in four packages under the wings and two in packages each side of the nose; the top turret guns also could be used for ground attack, with the guns locked to fire forwards and controlled by the pilot.
Heavily armored, to afford protection against ground fire, the A-26B carried a crew of three, comprising pilot, navigator/radio operator and the gunner. Internal stowage was provided for a maximum 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) bomb load. Under-wing points carried 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs, eight 5 in (12.7 cm) rockets and two fuel tanks, or 16 rockets.
The A-26B was put into production by Douglas at the Long Beach and Tulsa factories, which built 1,150 and 205, respectively, of this model, deliveries starting in the first half of 1944. Powered by 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines, the A-26B achieved a maximum level speed of 355 mph (571 kmh) at 15,000 ft (4,572 m), making it one of the fastest bombers used by the USAAF in World War II. Experiments with nose armament continued, with an A-26B mounting a 2.95 in (75 mm) cannon, another with this gun plus two 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machineguns and a third with two 1.46 in (37 mm) cannon.
The operational career of the A-26B began on November 19, 1944, with the 9th Air Force in Europe. The A-26 was also operational in the Pacific in the later stages of the campaign against Japan, for which the A-26C joined the
A-26B. In the "C", a transparent "bombardier" nose replaced the gun nose, to permit more accurate bombing from medium levels; two forward-firing guns were retained, together with the turret guns. The fuselage was widened, and dual controls were fitted, the second pilot also acting as bombardier.
Douglas built five A-26Cs at Long Beach and 1,086 at Tulsa, with deliveries starting in 1945. One XA-26D was also built, as a development of the "B" having eight 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machineguns in the nose and six in wing packages. A camera-equipped reconnaissance version which appeared in small numbers was the FA-26C.
View also the retouched photo 2335 of the same aircraft, with the machineguns in the nose and the top turret eliminated.