The Douglas Aircraft Co. developed the B-18 to replace the Martin B-10 as the U.S. Army Air Corps' standard bomber. Based on the Douglas DC-2 commercial transport, the prototype B-18 competed with the Martin 146 (an improved B-10) and the four-engine Boeing 299, forerunner of the B-17, at the Air Corps bombing trials at Wright Field in 1935. Although many Air Corps officers judged the Boeing design superior, the Army General Staff preferred the less costly Bolo (along with 13 operational test YB-17s). The Air Corps later ordered 217 more as B-18As with the bombardier's position extended forward over the nose gunner's station.
Though equipped with inadequate defensive armament and underpowered, the Bolo remained the Air Corps' primary bomber into 1941, and the Japanese destroyed some B-18s during the surprise attacks on Dec. 7. By early 1942, improved bombers like the B-17 replaced the Bolo as first-line bombardment aircraft. Many B-18s were then used as transports, or modified as B-18Bs for anti-submarine duty.
Stationed at Wright Field from 1939 to 1942, the B-18A on display was acquired and restored by the museum in 1971. It is painted as a B-18A serving with the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron in 1939.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: Three .30-cal. guns (in nose, ventral and dorsal positions), plus 4,500 lbs. of bombs carried internally Engines: Two Wright R-1820-53s of 1,000 hp each Crew: Six Maximum speed: 215 mph at 15,000 ft. Cruising speed: 167 mph Range: 2,100 miles Ceiling: 23,900 ft. Span: 89 ft. 6 in. Length: 57 ft. 10 in. Height: 15 ft. 2 in. Weight: 27,000 lbs. loaded Serial number: 37-0469