Author Topic: Douglas B-22B Dragon  (Read 2353 times)

Offline apophenia

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Douglas B-22B Dragon
« on: November 01, 2019, 06:18:08 AM »
"Dreams of war, dreams of liars, Dreams of dragon's fire, And of things that will bite, yeah ..."

The evolution of the B-22B Dragon medium bomber was somewhat convoluted. The initial Douglas DB-4D/XB-22 concept began as a simple re-engining of the B-18A - replacing the B-18A's single-row, 1,000 hp Wright R-1820-53 with the new two-row XR-2600-1 Cyclone 14 radials. A further evolution of the design was the Douglas DB-6/XB-23 concept. Another R-2600-powered bomber, this applied the XB-22 powerplants (and fully-enclosed main wheels) to a completely new, more-streamlined fuselage and tail attached to DC-3 wing panels. This design also had a new tail position armed with a single, manually-operated .50-calibre Browning machine gun.

The USAAC elected to skip over the DB-4D/XB-22 in favour of the higher-potential DB-6/B-23. No prototype was ordered. Instead, the last 38 airframes on order as B-18As were to be completed as B-23s. A new line was created at Santa Monica to produced B-23s but is soon became unclear as to whether Wright could deliver the new R-2600-1 Cyclone 14 engines on time and delivering the promised power. Hedging its bets, Douglas Aircraft submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Air Corps for a revised approach. Pending guaranteed delivery of fully-compliant R-2600 radials, Douglas would deliver a larger number of B-23-style fuselages for mating with B-18A wings and powerplants.

Douglas B-22B - "The hunger of a dragon is slow to wake, but hard to sate"

The Douglas Aircraft proposal contained two options. One - the DB-4N simply substituted 46 new B-22A bombers for the contracted 38 B-23s. The second - the DB-4M - would deliver 62 new fuselages which were to be combined with existing B-18 components supplied by the USAAC. [1] Oddly, the USAAC chose to designate both options prior to its actual procurement choice. The DB-4N became the XB-22A, the DB-4M became the XB-22B. [2]  Due to the urgency prompted by war clouds building in Europe, the USAAC chose to proceed with the DB-4M/B-22B option However, the USAAC order stipulated that work on the B-22B bomber must not delay Douglas' delivery of A-20 attack aircraft. This proved a sticking point.

Douglas Santa Monica was quite capable of producing the relatively small numbers of B-22B fuselages (in eager anticipation of follow-on orders for  future B-23s). However, there was simply no space available for stripping B-18As and combining those parts with the new fuselages. Douglas had taken over the Northrop plant at El Segundo but it was engaged in production of aircraft for the US Navy. Fortunately, the USAAC had just trialled the single-engined Vultee YA-19 attack plane and was well aware that Vultee Aircraft in nearby Downey, CA, was looking to break in to the US military market. A deal was reached whereby Vultee would disassemble USAAC B-18As at Downey. Douglas would truck B-22B fuselage sections the 26 miles inland to Downey for mating with B-18A components at the Vultee plant. [3]

"...the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!"

The first B-22B Dragon was delivered to the USAAC in late August 1939. The Dragon had a 50 mph top speed advantage over the B-18A as well as a slightly greater range - but this was achieved, in part, by reducing the bomb load. [4] The biggest difference was in defensive armament arrangement. The awkward nose and dorsal positions of the B-18A were gone. In their place was an upper nose ball-mount - operated by the bomb-aimer - and a prone gunner position with a .50-calibre gun in the extreme tail. The ventral gun position was retained but the drag-inducing dorsal turret was replaced by hatches for a .30-calibre machine gun in the fuselage sides.

The first production B-22B featured a crew of six and had a fully-retractable tail wheel. The latter was replaced by a fixed B-18A unit and the crew was reduced to five (by eliminating the camera operator position) to save weight. It was intended that the follow on B-22C would have crew of only four - pilot, bomb-aimer, navigator/radio-operator, and tail gunner. The B-22C was to feature remotely-controlled barbettes - the dorsal barbette aimed by the navigator/radio-operator, the ventral barbette being alternatively slaved to either of the manual gun position (nose or tail). In the end, neither the B-22C or its futuristic defensive armament ever emerged. Douglas concentrated on producing A-20s while Vultee returned to building aircraft of its own design.

After work-up on the B-22B, the 17th Bombardment Group (Medium) took the Dragons into the fray in June 1940 with the Air Corp Expeditionary Force (ACEF). Briefly based at the Aéroport Château Bougon near Nantes, the 17th had to withdraw south in the face of the rapidly advancing Germans. After briefly joining B-18As at busy Bordeaux Mérignac, the B-22Bs were relocated to Istres, northwest of Marseille. As the Wehrmacht pushed further south, the 17th was forced back again. At the beginning of October 1940, the surviving Dragons withdrew to Corsica. There, flying from Serragia Airfield, one of the 17th's first over-water missions was attacking Luftwaffe bombers on their old field at Istres. [5] Several Junkers 88s of IV/KG 3 were knocked out on the ground but the 17th lost two bombers to flak. One of the striken B-22Bs - 39-029, 'Dragon's Breath' - struggled on for almost 100 km before coming down just off the coast from La Ciotat. [6]


[1] An additional option was given to upgrading DB-1/B-18 components (Douglas' preference) or of robbing parts from newer DB-4/B-18A medium bombers.

[2] Presumably, the B-23 designation range was now being held exclusively for potential R-2600-powered variants.

[3] In the official, full USAAC designation, Vultee Aircraft is given credit as manufacturer - as the B-22B-1-VU or B-22B-2-VU (depending upon production batch).

[4] A B-18A could carry up to 4,400 lbs of bombs in its bulging belly (although 2,900 lbs was considered a normal load). In the B-22B, the bomb load was reduced to only 2,000 lbs.

[5] Although making supply lines more difficult, it was felt necessary to hold Corsica to dissuade Mussolini's Italy from entering the war on the side of the Germans.

[6] All five crew members of 'Dragon's Breath' survived the crash-landing and were rescued by a German patrol boat.
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Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: Douglas B-22B Dragon
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2019, 07:46:23 AM »
The B-23 is a totally under-appreciated aircraft if you ask me, apophenia and yours is probably the best looking one I've ever seen!

I like how the fin & rudder are mostly DC-3 with a bit more graceful curve at the beginning.

Pure eye-candy!

Brian da Basher

Offline apophenia

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Re: Douglas B-22B Dragon
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2019, 09:56:53 AM »
Cheers Brian. I really like that big fin on the B-23 but figured that the B-22B didn't really need it. Plus, that DC-3 fin was a quick way to distinguish my concoction from the real Dragon    ;)
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Online finsrin

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Re: Douglas B-22B Dragon
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2019, 10:07:23 AM »
B-23 looks like B-18 XB-22 with shot of steroids.

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Re: Douglas B-22B Dragon
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2019, 03:29:15 AM »
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

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Offline taiidantomcat

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Re: Douglas B-22B Dragon
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2019, 01:01:02 PM »
 :D very cool! fits wonderfully
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