The Consolidated B-32 Dominator was produced to the same specifications as the B-29 Superfortress, but took far longer to develop and was only ever produced in small numbers.
In November 1939 General 'Hap' Arnold issued specification XC-218-A, which called for a very long range bomber with better performance than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress or the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. On 8 April 1940 four companies put forward designs, for what became the Boeing XB-29, Lockheed XB-30, Douglas XB-31 and Consolidated XB-32. Lockheed and Douglas soon withdrew from the contest, leaving Boeing and Consolidated.
Consolidated submitted their Model 33. This had a long cylindrical fuselage with a rounded nose (as used on the B-29). It had larger Davis-type wings - straight tapered wings, with slight dihedral, and very thick wing roots. It had twin fins and rudders similar to those used on the B-24. It was powered by four 2,200hp turbo-supercharged Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclone R-3350 radial engines. As on the B-29 the crew were in pressurised compartments, while the gun turrets were remotely controlled. Its gross weight was estimated at 101,000lb (not a bad guess - the production version ended up at 111,000lb). The XB-32 was armed with four 0.50in machine guns in an upper turret, four in a lower turret, two rear firing machine guns and one 20mm gun in the outboard engine nacelle and two forwarding firing machine guns in the wing leading edge.
On 9 September 1940 Consolidated was given a contract to produce two prototypes of their Model 33, as the XB-32. This was later increased to three prototypes, and a contract for thirteen YB-32s followed in June 1941.
Work on the XB-32 was slowed by problems with the remotely powered turrets and the pressurisation system and the first XB-32 was completed without them. The eventual design had a different nose to the original design, with a stepped windscreen in place of the rounded nose. It used R-3350-13 engines in the inboard positions and R-3350-21 engines in the outboard positions. The aircraft
The first prototype was rolled out six months late, but still made its maiden flight two weeks before the XB-29, on 7 September 1942. It had a stepped nose and twin fins and rudders, but no turrets and was un-pressurised. The first flight didn’t go well - part of the rudder controls failed and the aircraft had to make a emergency landing after twenty minutes.
In February 1943 the thirteen YB-32s were cancelled. However in March an order for 300 B-32 Terminators was placed. The first prototype was destroyed in a crash on 10 May 1943.
The second prototype was built with the same twin fins and rudders, and made its maiden flight on 2 July 1943. The USAAF was unimpressed and declared the type obsolete unless a large number of changes were made. The design suffered from major stability problems and as a result the second prototype was given a B-29 style tall single tail before its 25th flight. An even taller 19ft 6in tail was designed, and was installed on the third prototype for its maiden flight in November 1943.
Eventually orders were placed for over 1,500 aircraft. Production was to be split between San Diego and Forth Worth, with San Diego focusing on the fuselage and Fort Worth on the wings. The large tail was built at Stinson. Of these aircraft only 75 combat aircraft were completed - 74 at Forth Worth and 1 at San Diego, along with forty trainers (see below).
Production aircraft were armed with ten 0.50in machine guns carried in power operated nose, dorsal, ventral and tail turrets. They were unpressurised, had four blade propellers, the revised tail and could carry 20,000lb of bombs (4,000lb more than the prototypes). The changes were significant enough to see a change of Consolidated designation, to the Model 34. They had two large bomb bays, each of which could carry 10,000lb of bombs. They were powered by the same Wright Cyclone engines as the B-29. They had a crew of eight.
The name of the aircraft was chanced to the Dominator in August 1944, the month before the first production aircraft was delivered (19 September 1944). Unfortunately this aircraft was written off on the same day after the nosewheel failed. Only five aircraft had been delivered by December 1944, months after the B-29 had actually entered combat from bases in China in June 1944.
The B-32 didn't impress its new users. The bombardier's view was poor, the cockpit was noisy and poorly laid out. The engine nacelles caused a series of engine fires. The undercarriage suffered from so many problems that all B-32s were briefly grounded in May 1945.
Despite these problems the B-32 just about made its combat debut before the end of the Second World War. Three were sent to Clark Field in the Philippines, and on 29 May two of them made the type's combat debut, taking part in a ground support mission. The total of aircraft was built up to nine, and they then joined the 386th Bombardment Squadron at Floridablanca. They were then taken to Okinawa, where they took part in a handful of missions during August 1945. Even then the problems didn't end - during the final mission on 28 August one aircraft crashed on take-off and one had to be abandoned. The remaining aircraft returned to the United States soon after VJ-Day.
The B-32 was quickly withdrawn after the war, and by 1949 most, if not all, of the aircraft had been scrapped.
Engine: Four Wright R-3350-23 cyclone air cooled radial engines
Power: 2,200hp each (8,800hp total)
Span: 135ft 0in
Length: 83ft 1in
Height: 33ft 0in
Empty Weight: 60,272lb
Max take off weight: 111,500lb
Gross Weight: 123,250lb
Maximum Speed: 357ph at 25,000ft
Climb rate: 1,050ft/ min; 38 min to 25,000ft
Range: 800 miles with max bomb load; 3,800 miles maximum range
Guns: One 20mm cannon in nose, one 20mm cannon in tail, four 0.5in machine guns
Bomb load: 20,000lb