Airborne Awesomosity, Military Surplus

What If The B-29 Had Failed, What Were The Backups?


Consolidated B-32 Dominator


The B-29 Superfortress was the most complex aircraft built during the 40’s; because of this the US Air Force wanted some other aircraft as insurance against its failure.


File:Lockheed XB-30.jpg

Lockheed XB-30

With a war raging, and the world’s most complex aircraft under development, additional options were needed: planes that would be placed into production as backups had the Boeing Superfortress failed. By spreading the aircraft contracts around, it was hoped that at least one of these superbombers would work. Take a moment and look through the Superfortress development and you will see that that the B-29 nearly derailed several times during, and after, it’s time on the drawing boards.

The US Air Force  put out a contest for a very long range euro bomber. It would need to be capable of the same range and bomb load as the B-29. Three companies stepped up and submitted designs for this contest with only one going into production.

With the Constellation underutilized during the war Lockheed submitted a bomber version of the aircraft.  The design never got the scale model you see above. Which is a shame really since I would like to have seen how Kelly Johnson would have solved some of the bomber issues other manufactures had in his own special way.

Remember the numbers you see below were only from the design state. What would have happened if it actually reached development is any ones guess.  Considering how effecient the Connie was with the identical numbers this bomber should have been pretty spectacular.  The stats for all three aircraft are from wikipedia.


Douglas XB-31

Douglas was next up with their proposed Douglas XB-31. Douglas had a leg up on the competition with the XB-19 which was the largest bomber at the time of it’s construction. The failure of the XB-19 was related to the lack of suitable engines not the airframe. With this in mind Douglas scaled up the design with the more powerful engines in mind. By using four of the Pratt and Whitney R-4360 3000hp radials they designed the largest aircraft of the three proposals.
Of special note is the shape of the nose section. With this being a pressurized fuselage the design called for a perfectly cylindrical shape.  Douglas with with a far more pointed look then the B-29’s.

  • General characteristics
  • Crew: 8
  • Length: 117 ft 3 in (35.7 m)
  • Wingspan: 207 ft 0 in (63.1 m)
  • Height: 42 ft 7 in (12.99 m)
  • Wing area: 3,300 ft² (310 m²)
  • Empty weight: 109,200 lb (49,530 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 134,200 lb (60,870 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 198,000 lb (89,800 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-3350-13 “Duplex-Cyclone” radials, 2,200 hp (1641 kW) each
  • Powerplant after later redesign: 4× Pratt & Whitney R-4360 “Wasp Major” radials, 3,000 hp (2238 kW) each
  • Performance (estimated)
  • Maximum speed: 357 mph (575 km/h)
  • Range: 3,000 miles (4,830 km)
  • Service ceiling: 35,000 ft (10,675 m)
  • Wing loading: 41 lb/ft² (200 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.066 hp/lb (108 kW/kg) originally, later upgraded to 0.089 hp/lb (147 W/kg)
  • Armament
  • Guns:
    • 4× .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in remote ventral and dorsal turrets
    • 2× 1.46 in (37 mm) cannon in tail
  • Bombs: 25,000 lb (11,000 kg) in two ventral bomb bays


Consolidated B-32 Dominator

The winner of the competition was Consolidated’s B-32 Dominator. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is one of the best names for a bomber ever. Further, the design carries the B-24 look to it’s logical extreme.  The US Air Force ordered 1500 B-32’s with the plan o take the B-29 to the Pacific and the B-32 to Europe.  Only 118  Dominators were built with the success of the B-29 ending the war.

In operational use the bombers results were mixed.  Towards the final weeks of the war they were used as photo recon aircraft to check on the Japanese cease fire. During this time they were attacked and were not shot down.  Reliability issues showed up during these missions but that was to be expected for a new aircraft.

An  unusual side note to the B-32 story is that the last airman killed during WWII was killed in a B-32 while trying to help another injured crew member.



Consolidated XB-32 with original twin tail showing it's B-24 lineage

Whether the B-32 would have had better luck in combat than the B-29 is up for debate.  The B-32 had nearly the same amount of issues in development as the B-29. Since they used the same R-3350 engines with the same nacelles they both suffered from the same overheating problems. Next the complexity of the remote gun systems plagued the B-29 and B-32. The B-29 addressed by removing the guns entirely during the fire bombing campaign, the B-32 addressed it by going with manual guns.

Had it been given time to develop and mature the B-32 may have held a place of significance like the Superfortress. Due to the amount of time needed for development, and the level of complexity in this back up aircraft, that was not to be the case.

[all images from]



  • Rusty

    Pressurized aircraft? Clearly not a great idea unless your bombing altitude was above air defenses.

  • jakebonz

    Here's a thought: Had the Germans won the Battle of Britain and we had to win the island back, I would imagine we'd be talking about he backup plan for the B-52 instead.

    • fodder650

      Well the Very Long Range Bomber Program was exactly for that reason. The ability to bomb Europe from the US. That's where all these bombers come from

      • CaptianNemo2001

        More likely Greenland or Iceland. Or Russia if it got bad. There is NO reason to launch bombers from the US when you got closer places to launch planes from.

        • fodder650

          The plans were still to have bombers capable of flying from the US to Germany during the second World War. The belief was that the Germans would own all of Europe.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            But the payload would suck. Just like the payload from France to the US and back would suck for the Germans America-Bomber project.

            It may have been the design plan but there is no way they would not cut a few hundred/thousand miles off the round trip if they could AND increase the payload. Considering how inaccurate the bombers(B-17/B-24 ect) were just from the UK to Germany they would have needed ALOT more bombers(They had what? 2-3k (peak) of them at any one time in the UK) to try to bomb anything from the US to Germany.

            Shooting at a longer range with the same bullet(Insert Bomb), but now with a different gun(Insert Plane), does not mean you will hit the target(Insert Berlin/London/Paris) any better.

          • fodder650

            Oh trust me not only do I believe you but the results were kind of unusual. The early answers to this need were the B-15 and B-19. It wasn't until the B-36, also part of this program, did they actually get close to being able to deliver a 4,000 bomb load that far.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            For all its worth the flying wing series from both country's would have been an ideal bomber.

            As the Horten Brothers commented… (Paraphrased by me) It just have to fly straight and level for most of the flight and turning is really not important except to fly back to Germany.

          • fodder650

            Although I'm a fan of the B-35/B-49 Flying Wings they had a yaw issue when they were bombing. After 5,000 miles of flight and only carrying two tons of bombs. The last thing you need is for the bomber to be slightly off course and hit the wrong target.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            The yaw was not that bad on the 229. Plus for the B-35, it did not have the yaw issues the B-49 did because the props iirc actually helped stabilize it in flight.

          • fodder650

            Have you seen the Horton in Washington DC yet? It's just the middle part of the cockpit but they are planning on restoring it.

            Yes you are correct the props acting as stabilizers but I believe the B-35's cancellation was still related to the yaw issue. Oh and the small fact that Convair bought out the US government.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            What about the Horton in DC?

          • fodder650

            The last time I was at the Udar Hazy Smithsonian it was on display.

            <img src="; width=600 />

          • CaptianNemo2001

            And I think I had tracked it down to being a Horten Ho III h flying wing glider.

          • fodder650

            I thought this was from one of the jet Hortons. Honestly I'm not sure which Horton it is.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Moved to new thread to make it clearer.

  • FЯeeMan

    I have nothing useful to add, but keep 'em coming. Love learning about these obscure things!

    • fodder650

      Thanks for that reply. It lets me know people are reading these

  • for_SCIENCE

    Reminds me quite a bit of the Privateer.

  • Pingback: Boeing XB-39 Spirit of Lincoln : Atomic Toasters()

  • CaptianNemo2001

    Its a III h. I can guarantee that it is NOT a jet powered aircraft.
    <img src="; width="600">

    <img src="; width="600">

    By the time you get to the edge of the center section you would be hitting the twin jet engines. IF it were a 229. Also the tell-tail nose is different.

    • fodder650

      Apparently they also have one of those as well.

      • CaptianNemo2001

        The Go 229 was the production design number/name for the Ho IX/Ho229 depending upon sources. The Ho IX glider and IX jet did differ a bit. Also there were slight, planned production changes planned due to the fact that there was a war going on.

        I only have the first book. $50.00. Will eventually have the other 2.
        "The Horten Brothers and Their All-Wing Aircraft"
        More publications by him here.

        • fodder650

          Wasn't the Amerika bomber a Horten design as well?

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Yes. The Ho XVIII A and Ho XVIII B

            ""The Junkers and Messerschmitt engineers were unwilling to go with the design ((Ho XVIII A)) that the Hortens presented several days earlier. Instead, the committee wanted to place a huge vertical fin and rudder to the rear of the Ho XVIII A. Reimar Horten was angry, as this would add many more man-hours, plus it would create drag and thus reduce the range. The committee also wanted to place the engines beneath the wing, which would create additional drag and reduce the range even further. After two days of discussion, they chose a design that had huge vertical fins, with the cockpit built into the fin's leading edge. Six Jumo 004A jet engines were slung under the wing, three to a nacelle on each side. The bomb bay would be located between the two nacelles, and the tricycle landing gear would also be stored in the same area. The committee would present the final design to the RML and recommended that it be built in the former mining tunnels in the Harz Mountains. Reimar was unhappy with the final design, so he went about redesigning the aircraft, to be known as the Ho XVIII B.""

          • fodder650

            Slightly off topic but it does sound like the Captain America movie had the compromise Amerika bomber look right.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            It had electric motors, I think, geared to props in the pusher configuration… Over-sized plane and a joke. How does it stay cool? Also it has, like most German bombers, crappy defensive armaments. Its like the B-36 and the Ho 18 b mixed with the B-35 and B-49 and made a bastard child. It's just bad.

            <img src="; width="600">
            <img src="; width="600">
            <img src="; width="600">

            Bigger pics.


          • fodder650

            That head on shot looks like an oversized HO-229. That bottom screenshot shows me the scale though. I didn't realize it was supposed to be that big in the movie.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Yah its SO BIG that the hanger would be a massive target saying HIT ME!!!… HIT ME PLEASE!!! There is just no way to hide something that big. AND build it in under… Likely under 2-3 years. Maybe 1-2 years at best.

            Logistics, logistics, and more logistics. And not even talking about building the hanger to begin with.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            ^^ Ignore the commenter on the article/blog page. As he is an idiot and has no respect for understanding of what "Time, Place, Condition and Innovation" are.

          • fodder650

            People don't look at aircraft like this from a standpoint of their times. Look at the B-36 and what you see is a big anarchistic bloated bomber that looks wildly out of date. Go back into its history and find out it was sitting on the drawing broad since the early 40's and then you will understand why it looks like it does.

            This is why we have places like this to have interesting discussions. Then there are times we pick up an article like the helicopter one from yesterday and start to discuss its design a bit as well over Google+

          • CaptianNemo2001

            I wish I had MORE RAM. If I load the page with nothing else running I might get away with it. If I am running more tabs then it lags and I have to close FF. The google + stuff tries to load everything. Past and Present material. I'll look at it nonetheless.

        • CaptianNemo2001

          Another, possibly good book.

          Only the Wing: Reimar Horten's Epic Quest to Stabilize and Control the All-Wing Aircraft [Hardcover]

          • fodder650

            Its interesting to think that Jack Northrop was working on the same issues but that neither was sharing data at this point. They were both working separately of each other.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            iirc Jack had heard about the Tailless gliders and the Early flying wing gliders being made in the late 20's and 1930's by the Horten Brothers. Also Tailless aircraft were not necessarily new to aircraft designers, they were just uncommon, had stability issues and faced an uphill battle with skeptics… which, I think, they still do.

            Also making it fly with out all these fancy computers is easy enough to do… It just wont snap and pull an 180 degree turn like an F-16. Unfortunately the Air-force does not understand rationalization or reason very well… Like the German Luftwaffe generals they think bombers need to snap and be able to pull a 180 degree turn…

            NOTE: B-17s and for the most part B-29's really didn't need to snap and pull 180 degree turns either… Exception being dropping the Atomic Toaster/Bomb on Japan.

          • fodder650

            Right but in Northrop's case he had a pretty good proof of concept in the N9M. You are correct that tailless wasn't anything new and had been attempted for awhile but these two designers seemed to have found answer to the problems.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            I would bet that the Horten Brothers more or less solved the stability issues much better then Jack. He kept putting small fins on his planes and the Horten's used flaps and small drag flaps to help control the craft.
            <img src="; width="600">

            Look at "drag rudders"

          • fodder650

            If you think about what you just said then you can very much see an American approach versus a German approach. Drag is easier to build into something then adding more weight and complexity.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            <img src=""&gt;

            Look at "drag rudders". I got a plan of the cable and control setup somewhere… I'll try and locate it. I also have a much better view of the drag rudders area somewhere. I'll look for it.

            On the complexity issue it's both ways. The B-29 is an very complex aircraft. But like all planes, people like to add new attachments to the aircraft, and more weight and then complain about lack of power/speed. The Me-109 is a good case for seeing this.

          • fodder650

            The ME-110 is another good example of that. Especially versions like the night fighter. Heck look at al the variants of the JU-88.

            Interesting. The "vent holes" make me think of a speed brake more then aileron.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Those are two different things.

            Those are Drag FLAPs on the back side of the wing.

            The "Drag Rudders" are hinged, iirc, in the center of the slot, on the wing, and rotate 90 degrees to a vertical position to inflict just enough drag on the wing to turn the craft relativity well. The FLAPs are for those more massive turns and massive corrections in direction and iirc they kick in after the "DR" is already in use.

            Best I can describe it is "staged control inputs". Think of it as Stage 1 engine power vs Stages 2, 3, 4 and 5.

            Though I could be getting two different methods mixed up. Back to the books. I'll be back later to correct this.

          • fodder650

            Offtopic – Did I mention my dog's name is Nemo? Just thought it felt like the right time to share that.

            Isn't the drag rudder concept in use on the B-2?

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Yes it is. It gets confusing with out looking at the source books so once I get back from my short road trip I'll hit my book collection up and post something. Shouldn't be more then 5 hours before I get something up. Got a lot of stuff to do today. =)

  • Vahe Demirjian

    Regarding the Douglas XB-31, the info and specs regarding the XB-31 should be changed because the XB-31 was allocated to the Model 332, not the Model 423, since the Model 423 was designed later in 1941. This info is available from the following sources:

    Buttler, Tony, and Griffith, Alan, 2015. American Secret Projects: Fighters, Bombers, and Attack Aircraft, 1937-1945. Manchester: Crecy Publishing. ISBN 978-1906537487.