Convair B-36 Peacemaker

The Convair B-36 "Peacemaker"[N 1] was a strategic bomber built by Convair and operated solely by the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1949 to 1959. The B-36 was the largest mass-produced piston engine aircraft ever made. It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built at 230 ft (70.1 m). The B-36 was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal from inside its four bomb bays without aircraft modifications. With a range of 10,000 mi (16,000 km) and a maximum payload of 87,200 lb (39,600 kg), the B-36 was the world's first manned bomber with an unrefueled intercontinental range. The B-36 was the primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) until it was replaced by the jet powered Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (which first became operational in 1955). The B-36 set the standard for range and payload for subsequent U.S. intercontinental bombers.

Convair B-36 Peacemaker
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Convair
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1946
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Convair 384 View
The genesis of the B-36 can be traced to early 1941, prior to the entry of the United States into World War II. At the time it appeared there was a very real chance that Britain might fall to the Nazi "Blitz", making a strategic bombing effort by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) against Germany impossible with the aircraft of the time.[2] The United States would need a new class of bomber that could reach Europe from bases in North America,[3] necessitating a combat range of at least 5,700 miles (9,200 km), the length of a Gander, Newfoundland–Berlin round trip. The USAAC therefore sought a bomber of truly intercontinental range,[4][5] similar to the Nazi RLM's own ultra-long-range Amerika Bomber program.

Roughly a year before the German RLM first received the paperwork for the Amerika Bomber trans-Atlantic strategic bomber design competition, the USAAC opened up a similar, and even more demanding design competition for an American trans-oceanic ranged strategic bomber design competition on 11 April 1941, asking for a 450 mph (720 km/h) top speed, a 275 mph (443 km/h) cruising speed, a service ceiling of 45,000 ft (14,000 m), beyond the range of ground-based anti-aircraft fire, and a maximum range of 12,000 miles (19,000 km) at 25,000 ft (7,600 m). These proved too demanding — far exceeding the technology of the day — for any short-term design,[4] so on 19 August 1941 they were reduced to a maximum range of 10,000 mi (16,000 km), an effective combat radius of 4,000 mi (6,400 km) with a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) bombload, a cruising speed between 240 and 300 mph (390 and 480 km/h), and a service ceiling of 40,000 ft (12,000 m), above the maximum effective altitude of all of Nazi Germany's anti-aircraft Flak guns, save for the rarely deployed 12.8 cm FlaK 40 heavy Flak cannon.

Role Strategic bomber
Manufacturer Consolidated Vultee
Designer Ted Hall
First flight 8 August 1946
Introduction 1949
Retired 12 February 1959
Primary user United States Air Force
Produced 1946-1954
Number built 384
Unit cost US$4.1 million (B-36D)
Variants Convair XC-99
Convair NB-36H
Convair X-6
Developed into Convair YB-60

General characteristics

  • Crew: 9
  • Length: 162 ft 1 in (49.40 m)
  • Wingspan: 230 ft 0 in (70.10 m)
  • Height: 46 ft 9 in (14.25 m)
  • Wing area: 4,772 ft (443.3 m)
  • Airfoil: NACA 63(420)-422 root, NACA 63(420)-517 tip
  • Empty weight: 171,035 lb (77,580 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 266,100 lb (120,700 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 410,000 lb (190,000 kg)
  • Powerplant:
    • 4 x General Electric J47 turbojets, 5,200 lbf (23 kN) each
    • 6 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-53 "Wasp Major" radials, 3,800 hp (2,500 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 420 mph (365 knots, 685 km/h) with jets on
  • Cruise speed: 230 mph (200 knots, 380 km/h) with jets off
  • Range: 5,905 nm (10,945 km) with 10,000 lb (4,535 kg) payload
  • Ferry range: 10,000 mi (8,700 nm, 16,000 km)
  • Service ceiling 48,000 ft (15,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,920 ft/min (9.75 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 55.76 lb/ft (272.3 kg/m)
  • Power/mass (prop): 0.086 hp/lb (120 W/kg)
  • Thrust/weight (jet): 0.078


  • Guns: 2 x 20 mm (0.787 in) M24A1 cannon
  • Bombs: 86,000 lb (39,010 kg) with weight restrictions, 72,000 lb (32,660 kg) normal

End notes