The Consolidated B-24 Liberator

United States of America
United States of America

side view front view under view

No other bomber has ever been built in larger numbers than the Liberator. Together with the B-17 they were the majority of heavy bombers in World War 2. After the USA entered the hostilities in Europe they quickly became a familiar sight in the Netherlands and other countries, most while they flew over en-route to Germany, some when they made an unvoluntary landing or crash...

Consolidated approached the USAAF with the message they had a bomber on their drawing board that would outperform the B-17 on all fronts. The USAAF was interested enough to ask Consolidated for a prototype... Well, the rest of the story is known (see above and below)

Versions:

Further pictures:

Consolidated B-24 in full flight
Consolidated B-24 in full flight

 

Technical data on the Consolidated B-24D
Powerplant 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 (or 65) turbosupercharged radials, rated at 1200 hp (894.59 kW) each Role during war
  • Heavy Bomber
Length 66 ft 4 inch Height 17 ft 11 inch
Empty weight 32605 lb Operational weight 64000 lb typical,
71200 lb max
Wing Span 110 ft 0 inch Wing Aspect ratio 11.55
Wing Area 1048 sq ft Service ceiling 32000 ft
Maximum speed 303 mph at optimum altitude Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate unknown Range 2300 miles typical,
3500 miles max
Fuel capacity internal unknown Fuel capacity external unknown
Machine guns 11 x 0.50 inch:
  • 3 × trainable forward-firing in the nose
  • 2 × trainable in dorsal turret
  • 2 × trainable rearward-firing in tail turret
  • 2 × trainable in ventral turret
  • 2 × trainable lateral-firing in the waist positions
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 12,800 lb of bombs:
  • 8 × 1,100 lb or 8 × 1,600 lb (later models) internal, or
  • 2 × 4,000 lb wingmounted on two hardpoints
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 10: pilot, copilot, bombardier, navigator, radio operator and 5 gunners Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 29 December 1939 Operational Service 1941 - 1967
Manufacturer Consolidated Aircraft Company Number produced 18,482 total, 2,738 this version
Metric system
Length 20.22 m Height 5.46 m
Empty weight 14790 kg Operational weight 29030 kg typical,
32296 kg max
Wing Span 33.53 m Wing Aspect ratio 11.55
Wing Area 97.36 m² Service ceiling 9754 m
Maximum speed 488 km/h at optimum altitude Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate unknown Range 3701 km typical,
5633 km max
Fuel capacity internal unknown Fuel capacity external unknown
Machine guns 11 x 12 mm:
  • 3 × trainable forward-firing in the nose
  • 2 × trainable in dorsal turret
  • 2 × trainable rearward-firing in tail turret
  • 2 × trainable in ventral turret
  • 2 × trainable lateral-firing in the waist positions
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 5.806 kg of bombs:
  • 8 × 499 kg or 8 × 725 kg (later models) internal, or
  • 2 × 1815 kg wingmounted on two hardpoints
Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Consolidated B-24J
Powerplant 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 radials, rated at 1200 hp (894.59 kW) each Role during war
  • Heavy Bomber
Length 67 ft 2 inch Height 18 ft 0 inch
Empty weight 38000 lb Operational weight 65000 lb typical,
71200 lb max
Wing Span 110 ft 0 inch Wing Aspect ratio 11.55
Wing Area 1048 sq ft Service ceiling 30000 ft
Maximum speed 300 mph at 30000 ft Cruising speed 215 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 20,000 ft in 25 min 0 sec Range 2100 miles typical,
3300 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 1,968 Imp gal (2,364 US gal), plus provision for 1,041 Imp gal (1,250 US gal) in 373 Imp gal (450 US gal) wing tanks and 666 Imp gal (800 US gal) auxiliary weapons-bay tankage Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns 10 x 0.50 inch:
  • 2 × trainable forward-firing in the nose turret
  • 2 × trainable in dorsal turret
  • 2 × trainable rearward-firing in tail turret
  • 2 × trainable in ventral turret
  • 2 × trainable lateral-firing in the waist positions
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 12,000 lb in two weapons bays each rated 4,000 lb, and 2 underwing hardpoints each rated 4,000 lb.Genrally consisting of:
  • 2 × 4,000 lb bombs internal, or
  • 4 × 2,000 lb bombs internal, or
  • 8 × 1,000 lb bombs internal, or
  • 16 × 500 lb bombs internal.
  • Up to 2 × 4,000 lb of bombs carried under the wings.
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 10: pilot, copilot, bombardier, navigator, radio operator and 5 gunners Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 29 December 1939 Operational Service 1941 - 1967
Manufacturer Consolidated Aircraft Company Number produced 18,482 total, 6,678 this version
Metric system
Length 20.47 m Height 5.49 m
Empty weight 17237 kg Operational weight 29484 kg typical,
32296 kg max
Wing Span 33.53 m Wing Aspect ratio 11.55
Wing Area 97.36 m² Service ceiling 9144 m
Maximum speed 483 km/h at 9144 m Cruising speed 346 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 6095 m in 25 min 0 sec Range 3380 km typical,
5311 km max
Fuel capacity internal 8947 liters, plus provision for 4731 liters in 1703 liters wing tanks and 3028 liters auxiliary weapons-bay tankage Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns 10 x 12 mm:
  • 2 × trainable forward-firing in the nose turret
  • 2 × trainable in dorsal turret
  • 2 × trainable rearward-firing in tail turret
  • 2 × trainable in ventral turret
  • 2 × trainable lateral-firing in the waist positions
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 5443 kg in two weapons bays each rated 1814 kg, and 2 underwing hardpoints each rated 1814 kg.Genrally consisting of:
  • 2 × 1814 kg bombs internal, or
  • 4 × 907 kg bombs internal, or
  • 8 × 454 kg bombs internal, or
  • 16 × 227 kg bombs internal.
  • Up to 2 × 1814 kg of bombs carried under the wings.
Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Consolidated B-24  Liberator
Consolidated B-24A Liberator (Model 32) In Januari 1939 the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation approached the U.S. Army Air Corps with an offer to build a bomber superior to the B-17 Flying Fortress. In Februari 1939 the Consolidated design was approved, and in March 1939 Consolidated one prototype, the XB-24, was ordered. The same year there were 7 YB-24's ordered as service test aircraft, and after that an additional 38 B-24 A's. The XB-24 first flew in December 1938, powered by 4 Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 radial rated at 1200 hp (895 kW) each, and had 6 x 0.30 inch (7.7 mm) browning machine guns for defensive purposes in nose, dorsal, ventral, tail and 2 beam positions. These guns were all manually operated.
Number built: 9
Consolidated LB-30A for the RAF Unarmed transport aircraft, ordered by Great Britain, converted from the YB-24's originally destined for the USAAC
Number converted: 6 (of 7 YB-24's)
Consolidated B-24C Liberator The C standard was intended for the USAAF, with 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41 radial rated at 1200 hp, self-sealing fuel tanks, and three poer operated turrets in the dorsal, ventral and nose positions
Number built: 9
Consolidated B-24D Liberator The first full-scale production version. It was fitted with 4 Pratt & Whitney R-1840-43 (or 65) powerplants rated at 1200 hp and carried additional fuel. For details see above
Number built: 2,738
Consolidated SB-24D Liberator Ten B-24 D's were converted for use as a night bomber, fitted wit a radar bomb sight. They were used in the Pacific Theatre of Operations against Japan with some success
Number converted: 10
Consolidated XB-41 Liberator Like the B-17 which saw an escort fighter type (the YB-40), the B-24 had it's own escort fighter version. It sported 14 machineguns (0.5 inch or 12.7 mm) in various positions (two-gun nose, tail, ventral, forward dorsal, rear dorsal and port beam). Flight tests proved that the aircraft was bad to handle, and that perfomance suffered. 13 YB-41's that were already ordered were cancelled by the USAAF. It was further developed though, and although additional improvements were made the concept was dropped after unsatisfactory tests with the YB-40
Number built: 1
Consolidated B-24E Liberator Like the D, but with different propellor blades. Because deliveries were delayed, the type was obsolescent when it entered service, and most aircraft were therfor used as trainers by the USAAF
Number built: 801
Consolidated B-24G Liberator North American built another B-24 D variant with Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 radials and provisions for a pwer-operated Emerson nose turret with 2 × 0.50 inch (12,7mm) guns. Early aircraft had no ventral turret, but later aircraft had a Sperry ball. These also had the R-1830-65 powerplant
Number built: 430
Consolidated B-24H Liberator Essentially the same as the B-24 G, with the Emerson nose turret, the Sperry ball turret (retractable), and improved beam gunner stations (concerning airflow)
Number built: 3,100
Consolidated B-24J Liberator Improved upon the H version, this type carried Consolidated nose and tail turrets, a Sperry ventral turret, a Martin Dorsal turret, a C-1 autopilot, an M-series bombsight and other stuff like electronic turbocharger equipment. For details see above.
Number built: 6.678
Consolidated TB-24J Liberator An unknown number of J's were adopted for advanced training purposes
Number converted: unknown
Consolidated B-24L Liberator Basically a J version, the L had a lighter tail section with 2 x 0.50 inch (12,7mm) manually operated trainable rearward firing guns
Number built: 1,667
Consolidated RB-24L Liberator A number of L's were converted as trainers for B-29 crews
Number converted: unknown
Consolidated TB-24L Liberator A number of RB-24 L's were further converted as RADAR operator trainers
Number converted: unknown
Consolidated B-24M Liberator Basically an L version, but with a lightweight tail section fitted with a turret
Number built: 2,593
Consolidated TB-24M Liberator Unknown number of conversions of the M series for training crews.
Number converted: unknown
Consolidated ZB-24M Liberator The same aircraft as above (TB-24 M), but with a new designation after the War (1948)
Redesignated aircraft
Consolidated XB-24N/YB-24N Liberator New development on the M version, but stopped when the victory over Japan was eminent. It had a single vertical tail surface, a nose mounted ball turret, and a different tail turret
Number built: 8.
Consolidated AT-22 Liberator/TB-24D Aircraft like the D version, but specifically built for training flight engineers
Number built: 5
Consolidated BQ-8 Liberator Like the B-17 with it's BQ-7 version, the Liberator had a radio controlled bomb version. An unknown number of aircraft were stripped of operational equipment, and prepared to be radio controlled and to be deployed against Japanese targets. None of these aircraft were used though, maybe because of the bad results of it's contemporate (the BQ-7).
Number converted: unknown
Consolidated C-87 Liberator/RY-2 Transport version of the Liberator for passengers (25). 6 of these were later handed over to the Navy, hence the designation RY-2.
Number built: 279.
Consolidated C-87A Liberator/RY-1 VIP version of the C-87 (see above), for 16 day or 10 night passengers
Number built: 6
Consolidated CB-24 Liberator A number of aircraft from different versions were modified for transport
Number converted: unknown
Consolidated C-109 Liberator This Ford developed version was adopted (from the J and L versions) for use as a fuel tanker. It could carry more than 1,694 Imp Gal (2,000 US Gal , 7707 liters) of fuel, but a number of take-of accidents limited the load to 1,000 Imp Gal (1,200 US gal, 4550 liters).
Number built: 208
Consolidated F-7 Liberator This aircraft was the photo reconnaissance version, in a couple of standards:

F-7A Basically a J version, with 3 nose and 3 weapons bay cameras. Conversions: 100.
F-7B 107 conversions from the J version, 2 from the M version. 6 weapons bay cameras. Conversions: 109


Number converted: 209
Consolidated PB4Y-1 Based on the D, and later on the M version, this version was used for (Naval) patrol duties, and carried antennae for an air to surface radar in stead of the ventral turret
Number built: 977
Consolidated PB4Y-1P/P4Y-1P 65 PB4Y-1's were converted for photo reconnaissance duties. Survivors in 1951 received the different designation P4Y-1P, and were retired shortly after that
Number converted: 65
Consolidated Liberator Mk I (LB-30 B) for the RAF The British took over the order of the French (not fully) when France had to capitulate in June 1940, but demanded that a number of changes were made. To be included were self-sealing tanks, armor protection for the crew, power operated nose and tail turrets. Also: because of the inadequate speed of the A version Consolidated replaced the original radials with the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41 turbocharged radials. Because these aircraft were to be used by RAF Coastal Command, these aircraft were also fitted with an additional air-to-surface radar, and a ventral tray carrying 4 or 6 × 20 mm cannons for offensive actions against German U-boats
Number built: 20
Consolidated Liberator Mk II for the RAF This version was slightly larger (2 ft 7 inch, or 0,79 m) beacause of an additional nose section. Also it carried power-operated dorsal and tail turrets, increasing the guns number to 14 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) plus the 4 guns of each aformentioned turrets of the 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) calibre. The powerplants in this version were the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G Twin Wasp rated at 1200 hp (895 kW). Of the 139 built for the RAF 75 were repossessed by the USAAC because of the entry of the USA in World War 2 after the Pearl Harbor attack. 64 RAF aircraft reached the Middle East for which they were destined
Number built: 139
Consolidated Liberator Mk III for the RAF This version was the B-24 D, delivered to the RAF. They were known under a number of designations:

Liberator Mk III Bomber Command aircraft
Liberator GR.Mk V Coastal Command aircraft
Liberator Mk IIIA adoptions from the basic Mk III for maritime patrol with air-to-surface radar
Liberator C.Mk III Conversion of an Mk III for transport


Number built: 366
Consolidated Liberator Mk IV 8 G and 22 H version aircraft delivered to the RAF.
Number built: 30
Consolidated Liberator C.Mk IV for the RAF Same aircraft as above. A number of these were converted to the transport typ
Number converted: unknown
Consolidated Liberator Mk V/ C.Mk V for the RAF See Mk III: these were the Coastal Command Aircraft. 23 of these were converted to the transport type designated C.Mk V
Number converted: 23
Consolidated Liberator Mk VI for the RAF 1,157 B24-J were delivered to the RAF with the following subversions:
  • Liberator B.Mk VI: Bombers
  • Liberator GR.Mk VI: Maritime reconnaissance
  • Liberator C.Mk VI: Transport version

Transferred and Redesignated aircraft
Consolidated Liberator Mk VII for the RAF 24 C-97 transports were delivered to the RAF, receiving the C.Mk VII designation
Transferred and Redesignated aircraft
Consolidated Liberator Mk VIII for the RAF The same as Mk. VI, but for some reason a number recieved the designation Mk VIII in stead of Mk VI.
Transferred and Redesignated aircraft
Consolidated Liberator C.Mk IX for the RAF The same as the US RY-2, redesignated C.MK IX upon transfer to the RAF. 29 were delivered
Transferred and Redesignated aircraft

Remarks:

An unbelievable number of roles, an unbelievable number of versions, and an unbelievable number of aircraft. If viewed in this perspective is was the most succesfull bomber of World War 2. It ouperformed the B-17, it's more famous brother, in almost all aspects, but hasn't received the attention it deserved.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

 

© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 9/20/00