In 1941 when Britain's survival appeared doubtful, the AAF outlined a requirement for a bomber capable of bombing European targets from the Western Hemisphere. From this, evolved the giant Convair B-36. Due to the improving war situation and a lowered priority of the B-36 development program, the XB-36 did not make its first flight until Aug. 8, 1946. Deliveries to SAC of B-36s with a range of more than 7,000 miles began in 1948. The B-36 had a normal crew of 15, although the strategic reconnaissance version carried a crew of 22 plus camera equipment and 14,000 pounds of photo flash bombs for night photography.
The B-36 became the subject of sometimes bitter inter-service controversy when anonymous documents were circulated alleging corruption in the selection of the aircraft and questioning both its value and the USAF philosophy of strategic bombing. A Congressional investigation in 1949, however, vindicated the original decision to buy the B-36 and it remained in production until 1954, with a total purchase of 385 planes. Its unofficial nickname of "Peacemaker" was appropriate for, although the B-36 never dropped a bomb in combat, its range and nuclear weapons capability made it a powerful deterrent to a possible third world war.
When the XB-36 was designed during World War II, specifications called for two main landing gear wheels to be equipped with the largest aircraft tires produced in the United States to that time. Manufactured by Goodyear, the tires were 110 inches in diameter and 36 inches in width. Weighing 1,320 pounds, each tire was 30 percent nylon cord construction, the equivalent of approximately 60 automobile tires or 12,700 pairs of nylon hose.
Because of the enormous pressures imposed by the XB-36 upon concrete runways when equipped with single wheels, it could takeoff and land safely at only three airfields (the Convair field at Fort Worth, Texas, Eglin and Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Fields). As a result, the single-wheel landing gear was redesigned and production B-36s incorporated four smaller wheels and tires on each of its main landing gears.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: Designed for 10 .50-cal. machine guns and five 37mm cannon plus 77,784 lbs of bombs (no defensive armament was actually installed) Engines: Six Pratt & Whitney R-4360-25 radials of 3,000 hp each (takeoff power) Maximum speed: 346 mph at 35,000 ft. Cruising speed: 216 mph Range: 3,850 miles with 77,784 lbs. bomb load (estimated) Service ceiling: 38,000 ft. Span: 230 ft. 0 in. Length: 163 ft. 0 in. Height: 46 ft. 10 in. Weight: 265,000 lbs. (maximum gross weight) Crew: 15 Serial number: 42-13570