The Consolidated B-32 Dominator
In June 1940, the US Army Air Corps requested a new bomber from Consolidated Aircraft Company in case there were significant delays with the B-29, which had already been in development for two years. The result was the B-32 Dominator, which itself took nearly four years to complete testing. The bomber almost didn’t see action during World War II.
The first B-32 (XB-32-CO) was built at the Army Air Forces Plaint No. 4 just outside Fort Worth, Texas, adjacent to Tarrant Field Airdrome. By the fall of 1942, the Consolidated Vultee (later known as Convair) Bomber Plant assembly line was six months behind. Problems with the pressurization system led the team to omit the gun turrets and landing gear doors on the initial B-32 prototype, and it made it’s first flight on September 7, 1942.
The prototype had problems with engine oil leaking and cooling – a similar issue of the B-29.
The B-32 included eight .5-inch machine guns in dorsal and ventral (top and bottom) turrets, .50 caliber and 20mm cannons in the outboard engine nacelle firing rearwards, and two .50 caliber machine guns in the wings outboard of the propellers. The turrets were controlled via remote using periscopic sights relying on an analog computer system inside the aircraft.
In March 1943, the US military signed a contract for 300 B-32-CFs, but problems persisted. In May that year, the first XB-32 (which had made 30 flights) crashed on takeoff. The second made its initial flight two months later. After significant testing, the AAF requested many changes, including more conventional gun stations.
The pressurization issues of the B-32 were never completely solved, so the aircraft was re-purposed to be operated at low and medium altitudes. To boost stability, a B-29 vertical tail was used until a new tail was constructed.
In 1944, final testing led the AAF to order more than 1,500 B-32s, and the first production aircraft was delivered September 19, 1944. That same day, the aircraft’s nose wheel collapsed on landing.
In January 1945, 40 editions of the B-32 were delivered as TB-32 crew trainers.
While the B-32 was a “fallback” design in case of delays with the B-29, by the time five production models had been delivered at the end of 1944, the B-29 was under full-time operation in the Twentieth Air Force. As a result, the heavy bomber saw limited combat operations in the Pacific during the summer of 1945. Most of the orders for the aircraft were cancelled and just 118 of the B-32 (all types) were built.
Ironically, the B-32 has the distinction of being the last Allied aircraft to be engaged in combat during WWII. The limited operations against Japanese targets were in the final moments of the war.
No significant examples of the B-32 aircraft are known to exist. Most of them were delivered incomplete and were directly flown to Davis-Monthan Field in Arizona for storage. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation had put many up for sale but no offers were made. Several of the bombers were flown to Walnut Ridge Army Airfield in Arkansas, and were later scrapped when the Texas Railway Equipment Company bought more than 4,800 various aircraft.
By 1947, there was little left of the B-32, save for one that was earmarked for display at the Air Force Museum in Ohio. Unfortunately, in August 1949, it was declared surplus and scrapped.
There are a few portions of a B-32 on display. A wing panel from a test model was erected at the Montomery Memorial outside of San Diego, California, and the National Warplane Museum in Horseheads, New York has a nose turret.
Specifications of the B-32
There were more than a dozen variants of the B-32 Bomber. They all shared these general characteristics:
- Crew supported: 10
- Length: 82 ft, 1-in
- Height: 32 ft, 2-in
- Wingspan: 135 ft
- Weight: 60,278 lbs
- Loaded Weight: 100,800 lbs
- Maximum Takeoff Weight: 123,250 lbs
- Maximum Speed: 357 mph (at 30,000 feet)
- Cruising Speed: 290 mph
- Rate of Climb: 1,050 feet per minute
- Range (distance between takeoff & landing): 3,800 miles
- Maximum Altitude (service ceiling): 30,700 feet
- Armament: 10 .50 in machine guns / 20,000 lb bombs
Take a look at this B-32 Dominator video from the Army Pictorial Service: