This is my first post in the military forum of a.netters. Firstly Happy New Year.
I found this article in an Irish paper yesterday, and thought it was quiet interesting, however as always a couple of questions popped up?
1) Will there be any localized celebration of this milestone?
2) Is the information in the article accurate and true?
the B-36, it is perhaps the only bomber in the history of world military aviation which was apparently designed by comic-book illustrators. It was also the only aircraft ever to have atom-bombed Canada. Yes, atom-bombed Canada, and moreover, the bomb exploded. The things you didn't know.
The 60th anniversary of its first flight occurs this year. It was originally intended in 1941 to fly non-stop the 5,000 miles from the US to Germany, drop a few tons of bombs there, and then return across the Atlantic.
It was easily the largest aircraft of its time. It originally had six piston engines, weighed 160 tons, and its main undercarriage wheels were each nine feet in diameter. Its wings were 230 feet across and seven feet deep at their roots: engineers could enter them from inside the aircraft and work on the engines while in flight. Those engines used 336 spark-plugs and needed 150 gallons of lubricating oil each.
Most crewmen were located in two compartments 80 feet apart within the 120 feet-long fuselage. These were connected by a two-feet wide tunnel, along which prone crewmen could travel on a little cart, which also linked with the galley and the urinal. Other crew were located variously around the bomber, remotely controlling the eight defensive turrets which contained 16 cannon. Each flight was almost like the space shuttle: pre-flight checks involved 600 different steps.
The six piston engines, which were synchronised to minimise structural vibration, created an astonishing noise, as they drove the half-dozen propellers, each the size of a house. Later versions of the B-36 also had four jet engines. Even at 40,000 feet, the plane's din could rattle buildings to their foundations.
Hundreds of B-36s were built, though too late for the second World War, and many of their missions over the Soviet Union remain secret, even to this day. One served as a test-bed for a nuclear engine. Another carried a full-sized jet fighter in its bomb-bay, which it would release and later
retrieve, all in flight. A photo-reconnaissance version carried a vast camera which, loaded with a roll of film 18 inches wide and 1,000 feet long, once photographed a golf course from eight miles high. On the contact print, a golf ball can be clearly seen.
And 56 years ago next month, a B-36 dropped a Fat Man nuclear bomb - similar to the one which destroyed Nagasaki - on Canada. The US - understandably - was less than candid with its neighbour over the incident at the time: the last occasion they went to war with the Canadians, they lost. These little things rankle, you know.
In February 1950, a B-36 set out from Alaska for a mock attack on San Francisco, before flying on to Texas. But long before target-time, while over the Pacific, three engines caught fire. The pilot jettisoned his bomb over the sea, and in Canadian air-space, not far from the shore. It exploded in a fireball at 1,500 metres. However, because it lacked the plutonium core, this was not a nuclear explosion. The pilot - a Capt Barry, no doubt of Cork - then flew over Canada and told the crewmen to bail out. Twelve survived; five did not. But amazingly, the B-36 continued in flight for another 700 kilometres, before crashing near Alaska.