The Douglas A-26B was the gun-nosed version of the Invader medium bomber, and was designed to carry out both bombing and low level strafing attacks, a combination of functions that was seen as the most effective way to attack the many Japanese island bases scattered across the Pacific. It was, by a narrow margin, the most common version of the A-26, with a total of 1,355 being built.
The A-26B was tested with a wide variety of different gun noses, including ones carrying a 75mm cannon and two .50in machine guns, a 75mm and a 35mm cannon, two 35mm cannons or one 35mm cannon and two or four .50in machine guns, but none of these options were adopted. Instead the AAF decided to use a nose that could carry six .50in calibre machine guns, arranged horizontally across the front of the aircraft (with four on the right and two on the left). This six gun nose was later replaced by an eight gun nose, which carried its guns in four rows of two vertically down the centre line of the aircraft.
The A-26B could also carry as many as four twin .50in gun pods, two under each wing, giving early aircraft up to 14 guns. When the first A-26Bs were tested in combat in the Pacific these pods were unpopular, because they added greatly to drag and slowed the aircraft down by 25mph. They were later replaced by three .50in calibre machine guns mounted internally within the wings, which when combined with the eight gun nose retained the total of 14 guns.
Defensive firepower was proved by two remote controlled General Electric turrets, one upper turret mounted just above the rear of the bomb bay and one lower turret mounted just behind the bomb doors. Both turrets were controlled by a single gunner using periscopes mounted in his compartment between the turrets.
The A-26B carried a crew of three – the gunner in his rear compartment and a pilot/ radio operator and gun loader/ navigator in the pilot's compartment. The navigator lost most of his gun loading duties after plans to use he 75mm guns were abandoned.
The A-26B could carry 4,000lb of bombs internally and another 2,000lb under the wings. Later aircraft could also carry 5 inch HVAR rockets under the wings. Fuel capacity began at 1,600 gallons, rising to 1,900 gallons at the same time as the eight gun nose was introduced, and eventually reaching 2,025 gallons when an auxiliary tank was installed at the rear of the bomb bay.
A total of 1,355 A-26Bs were built, 1,150 at Douglas's Long Beach plant and 205 at their factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the European theatre the gun-nosed A-26B was often used alongside the B-26 Marauder or glass-nosed A-26Cs, with the glass nosed aircraft being used as pathfinders to lead the A-26Bs to their targets.
Engine: Two x Pratt & Whitney R-2800
Power: 2,000hp each
Wing span: 70ft
Length: 50ft 8in
Height: 18ft 6in
Empty Weight: 22,362lb
Maximum Weight: 41,800lb
Max Speed: 322mph
Service Ceiling: 24,500ft
Range: 2,914 miles
Early Armament: six .50in guns in nose and up to eight under the wings
Late Armament: eight .50in guns in nose and six in the wings
All: Two twin gun remote controlled turrets