No. 6293. Consolidated 33 XB-32 Dominator (41-142) US Army Air Forces
Aeroplane Photo Supply (APS) Photo No. 3738

Consolidated 33 XB-32 Dominator

11/30/2008. Remarks by Jack McKillop: "The history of the Consolidated Model 33 (XB-32) and 34 (B-32) Dominator goes back to November 1939 when the USAAC issued specification XC-218-A for a very long range bomber superior to the B-17 and B-24. In April 1940, preliminary design studies were submitted by Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas and Consolidated and on June 27, 1940, the USAAC Evaluation Board designated the proposals as XB-29, XB-30, XB-31 and XB-32 respectively. Both Lockheed and Douglas subsequently withdrew from the competition.

The Model 33 was similar to the B-24 with twin fins, larger Davis-type wing, longer fuselage and rounded nose. The powerplants were four 2,200 hp Wright R-3350s, the aircraft was pressurized, had remote controlled retractable gun turrets with fourteen 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and an estimated 101,000 lb (45,814 kg) gross weight. The first contract for 2 XB-32-CO's, AC-15549, was signed on September 6, 1940. (The first contract for the XB-29, AC-15429, was signed on the same day.)

The first XB-32-CO, s/n 41-141, rolled off the assembly line six months behind schedule and made it's first flight on September 7, 1942. Because of problems with the pressurization system, the gun turrets and landing gear doors, these items were omitted on the prototype. This aircraft had R-3350-13 engines inboard and R-3350-21s outboard driving three-bladed props. The aircraft also had problems with engine oil leaks and poor cooling and this had delayed it further. (The first XB-29 flight was on September 29, 1942.)

On March 17, 1943, contract AC-37856 was signed for 300 B-32-CFs. On May 10, 1943, the first XB-32 crashed on takeoff after making a total of 30 flights. On July 2, 1943, the second XB-32, s/n 41-142, finally flew; this aircraft had a stepped cockpit canopy but the USAAF soon reported that this aircraft was obsolete and recommended a large number of changes.

The second XB-32 was equipped with eight 0.50 in machine guns in dorsal and ventral turrets, two 0.50 in and one 0.787 in (20 mm) cannon in each outboard engine nacelle firing rearwards and controlled by aiming stations in the aircraft plus two 0.50 machine guns in the wings outboard of the propellers. The pressurization system problems were never solved and this was abandoned on production aircraft. The remote controlled gun turret problems were never solved and the armament on production aircraft was changed to ten 0.50 in machine guns in nose, dorsal, ventral and tail positions; the bomb load was increased by 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) to 20,000 lb (9,072 kg).

The second XB-32 also had stability problems and in an attempt to resolve this problem, a B-29 style tail was fitted after its 25th flight but this did not resolve the problem and a Consolidated-designed 19.5 ft (5.9 m) vertical tail was added and first flown on the third XB-32, s/n 41-18336 on November 3, 1943. The first production aircraft was fitted with the B-29 vertical tail initially before a new tail was substituted.

By 1944, the USAAF had placed orders for over 1,500 B-32s. The first production aircraft was delivered on September 19, 1944 by which time the B-29 was already in combat in India. The first aircraft crashed on the same day it was delivered when the nose wheel collapsed on landing. By December 1944, only five B-32s had been delivered and by this time, the B-29s were flying combat over Japan from the Mariana Islands. Starting on January 27, 1945, 40 B-32A-5, -10 and -15 aircraft were delivered as unarmed TB-32-CF crew trainers.

The problem for the USAAF now was that they had a very heavy bomber (the B-29) in combat and what were they to do with the B-32? Everyone wanted B-29s but nobody wanted the B-32. In March 1945, General George Kenney, Commanding General Far East Air Forces, was in Washington and he suggested that since he could not get B-29s, he would take the B-32 and test them in combat. The plan was to convert the 312th Bombardment Group (Light), a Douglas A-20 Havoc outfit, to B-32s. Special crews took three B-32s to Clark Field, Luzon, Philippine Islands in mid-May 45, and after a month of minor shakedown flights, the test period was completed on June 17; the test crews were impressed with its unique reversible-pitch inboard propellers and the Davis wing which gave it excellent landing performance. However, they found the cockpit had an extremely high noise level, poor instrument layout, the bombardier's vision was poor, it was overweight and the nacelle design resulted in frequent engine fires.

Two of the three B-32s flew their first mission on May 29, 1945, a ground support mission. Six more aircraft arrived and they were all assigned to the 386th Bombardment Squadron (Light) at Floridablanca, Luzon Island. Other missions flown by the 386th from Luzon were:

June 15, 1944: Two dropped sixteen 2,000 pound (907 kg) bombs on a sugar mill at Taito, Formosa. June 22, 1944: One of two B-32s bomb an alcohol plant at Heito, Formsoa with 500 lb (227 kg) bombs but the second one misses flak positions with 260 lb (118 kg) fragmention bombs. All told, the B-32s flew 16 sorties from Luzon.

On August 13, 1945, the 386th moved from Luzon to Yontan airstrip on Okinawa and flew mostly photographic reconnaissance missions. The last mission was flown on August 28, 1945 with the loss of 2 aircraft; one crashed on take-off and another was abandoned after "technical" problems. After VJ-Day, all B-32s were returned to the US.

A total of 117 B-32s were delivered, i.e.:

  3 XB-32-CO
10 B-32-1-CF
  4 B-32-5-CF
20 B-32-20-CF
  1 B-32-21-CF
25 B-32-25-CF
  7 B-32-30-CF
  7 B-32-35-CF
11 TB-32-5-CF
25 TB-32-10-CF
  4 TB-32-15-CF

Orders for 1,099 B-32-CFs and 499 B-32-COs were cancelled after VJ-Day.

Many of these aircraft were delivered from the factory incomplete and were flown directly to Davis-Monthan Field, Tucson, Arizona for storage. By 1947, most had been scrapped; in June 1947, Milton J. Reynolds, a pen manufacturer announced his intention to purchase a B-32 and fly it around the world over both Poles but nothing happened. B-32-1-CF, s/n 42-108474, was intended for display at the Air Force Museum but this was scrapped at Davis-Monthan AFB in August 1949. The only remnant of a B-32 left is a static test wing panel erected as a monument to aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery on a hill near San Diego, California."

Created March 31, 2007