Strategic Air Command B-36 Peacemaker Model
Fly with the Strategic Air Command in this hand crafted B-36 Peacemaker model. Each piece is carefully carved from wood to provide a piece you’ll love.
In late 1952 during the Korean War six 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing RB-36Ds were deployed to the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Group. at Yokota AB, Japan. This was the first introduction of RB-36 to the Korean theater. While not employed in any combat missions over North Korea, these RB-36s conducted high altitude aerial reconnaissance over Chinese Manchurian and Soviet east Asian targets while attached to the 91st SRG. One of the SAC’s initial missions was to plan strategic aerial reconnaissance on a global scale. The first efforts were in photo-reconnaissance and mapping. Along with the photo-reconnaissance mission, a small electronic intelligence (ELINT) cadre was operating. Weather reconnaissance was part of the effort, as was Long Range Detection, the search for Soviet atomic explosions. In the late 1940s, strategic intelligence on Soviet capabilities and intentions was scarce. Before the development of the Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane and orbital reconnaissance satellites Corona, technology and politics limited American reconnaissance efforts to the borders, and not the heartland, of the Soviet Union. One of the essential criteria of the early postwar reconnaissance aircraft was the ability to cruise above 40,000 feet (12,000 m), a level determined by knowledge of the capability of Soviet air defense radar. The main Soviet air defense radar in the 1950s was the American supplied SCR-270, or locally made copies, which were only effective up to 40,000 feet (12,000 m) – in theory, an aircraft cruising above this level would remain undetected. The first aircraft to put this theory to the test was the RB-36D specialized photographic-reconnaissance version of the B-36D. It was outwardly identical to the standard B-36D, but carried a crew of 22 rather than 15, the additional crew members being needed to operate and maintain the photographic reconnaissance equipment that was carried. The forward bomb bay in the bomber was replaced by a pressurized manned compartment that was filled with fourteen cameras. This compartment included a small darkroom where a photo technician could develop the film. The second bomb bay contained up to 80 T-86 photoflash bombs, while the third bay could carry an extra 11,000 litres (3,000 US gal) droppable fuel tank. The fourth bomb bay carried ECM equipment. The defensive armament of 16 M-24A-1 20 mm cannons was retained. The extra fuel tanks increased the flight endurance to up to 50 hours. It had an operational ceiling of 50,000 feet (15,000 m). Later, a lightweight version of this aircraft, the RB-36-III, could even reach 58,000 ft (18,000 m). RB-36s were distinguished by the bright aluminium finish of the camera compartment (contrasting with the dull magnesium of the rest of the fuselage) and by a series of radar domes under the aft fuselage, varying in number and placement. When developed, it was the only American aircraft having enough range to fly over the Eurasian land mass from bases in the United States, and size enough to carry the bulky high resolution cameras of the day. The standard RB-36D carried up to 23 cameras, primarily K-17C, K-22A, K-38, and K-40 cameras. A special 240-inch focal length camera (known as the Boston Camera after the university where it was designed) was tested on 44-92088, the aircraft being redesignated ERB-36D. The long focal length was achieved by using a two-mirror reflection system. The camera was capable of resolving a golf ball at an altitude and side range of 45,000 feet (14,000 m). That is a slant range of over 63,600 feet (19,400 m). See the contact print of this test at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB. This camera is now with the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB. The first RB-36D (44-92088) made its initial flight on 18 December 1949, only six months after the first B-36D had flown. It initially flew without the turbojets. The 28th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing based at Rapid City AFB (later renamed Ellsworth AFB), South Dakota received its first RB-36D on 3 June 1950. Due to severe materiel shortages, the new RB-36Ds did not become operationally ready until June 1951. The 24th and last RB-36D was delivered in May 1951. A total of 24 RB-36Ds were built. Some RB-36Ds were later modified to the featherweight configuration, in which all but the tail guns were removed. The crew was reduced from 22 to 19. These aircraft were redesignated as RB-36D-III. Modifications were carried out by Convair from February 1954 to November 1954. With a range of 9,300 miles (15,000 km), RB-36Ds began probing the boundaries of the Soviet Arctic in 1951. Although on-board equipment indicated detection by Soviet radar, interceptions at the B-36’s service ceiling would have remained difficult. RB-36 aircraft operating from RAF Sculthorpe in England made a number of overflights of Soviet Arctic bases, particularly the new nuclear weapons test complex at Novaya Zemlya. RB-36s performed a number of rarely acknowledged reconnaissance missions and are believed to have frequently penetrated Chinese (and Soviet) airspace under the direction of General Curtis LeMay. In early 1950, Convair began converting B-36As to a reconnaissance configuration; included in the conversions was the sole YB-36 (42-13571). These converted examples were all redesignated RB-36E. The six R-4360-25 engines were replaced by six R-4360-41s. They were also equipped with the four J-47 jet engines that were fitted to the RB-36D. Its normal crew was 22, which included five gunners to man the 16 M-24A-1 20 mm cannon. The last conversion was completed in July 1951. Later, the USAF also bought 73 long-range reconnaissance versions of the B-36H under the designation RB-36H. 23 were accepted during the first six months of 1952, the last were delivered by September 1953. More than a third of all B-36 models were reconnaissance models. Advances in Soviet air defense systems meant that the RB-36 became limited to flying outside the borders of the Soviet Union, as well as Eastern Europe. By the mid-1950s, the jet-powered Boeing RB-47E was able to pierce Soviet airspace and conduct a variety of spectacular overflights of the Soviet Union. Some of these flights probed deep into the heart of the Soviet Union, taking a photographic and radar recording of the route attacking SAC bombers would follow to reach their targets. The risks involved in mounting these dangerous sorties over some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth speaks volumes for the courage and skill of the crews involved. Flights which involved penetrating mainland Russia were termed SENSINT (Sensitive Intelligence) missions. One RB-47 even managed to fly 450 miles (720 km) inland and photograph the city of Igarka in Siberia. As with the strategic bombardment versions of the B-36, the RB-36s were phased out of the SAC inventory beginning in 1956, the last being sent to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base in January 1959.
Convair B-36s awaiting their fate at the 3040th Aircraft Storage Depot (now 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group) in 1958
With the appearance of the excellent Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 in combat over North Korea in 1950, USAF propeller-driven bombers were rendered obsolete as strategic offensive weapons. During daylight, the MiG-15 could, and did, attack the propeller-driven B-29s, forcing the U.S. to switch the B-29 to night raids. The B-36, along with the B-29/B-50 Superfortresses in the USAF inventory in the early 1950s, were all designed during World War II prior to the jet age. It would take a new generation of swept-wing jet bombers, able to fly higher and faster, to effectively overcome defense by MiG-15 or subsequent Soviet-designed interceptors if the Cold War escalated into an armed conflict between the United States and Soviet Union. With the end of fighting in Korea, President Eisenhower, who had taken office in January 1953, called for a “new look” at national defense. His administration chose to invest in the Air Force, especially Strategic Air Command. The Air Force retired nearly all of its B-29/B-50s, to be replaced by the new Boeing B-47 Stratojet. By 1955, the swept wing Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was entering the inventory in substantial numbers, replacing B-36s. The two main factors contributing to the obsolescence of the B-36 and leading to its phaseout were:
The Peacemaker was not designed for aerial refueling, and required intermediate refueling bases to reach its planned targets deep in the Soviet Union. Its slow speed made it vulnerable to Soviet jet interceptor aircraft, making long-range bombardment flights over Soviet territory extremely hazardous, seriously compromising its ability to reach its planned target and return. The scrapping of B-36s began in February 1956. Once replaced by B-52s, they were flown directly from operational squadrons to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, where the Mar-Pak Corporation handled their reclamation and destruction. Defense cutbacks in FY 1958 compelled the B-52 procurement process to be stretched out and the B-36 service life to be extended. The B-36s remaining in service were supported with components scavenged from aircraft sent to Davis-Monthan. Further update work was undertaken by Convair at San Diego (Specialized Aircraft Maintenance, SAM-SAC) until 1957 to extend the life and capabilities of the B-36s. By December 1958 only 22 B-36Js were still operational. On 12 February 1959, the last B-36J built, AF Ser. No. 52-2827, left Biggs AFB, Texas, where it had been on duty with the 95th Heavy Bombardment Wing, and was flown to Amon Carter Field in Fort Worth, where it was put on display. Within two years, all B-36s, except five used for museum display, had been scrapped at Davis-Monthan AFB.