B25 or B26, which was the better bomber?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pattle, Sep 23, 2013.

  1. pattle

    pattle Member

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    Sorry if this thread has already been done, I did look back but surprisingly I couldn't see anything.
    The B25 and B26 were aircraft of a similar nature both being armed twin engine bombers designed and used for broadly the same purpose. The attributes of these two planes did vary somewhat with the B26 being faster and able to carry a heavier bomb load than the B25 which balanced out it's comparative weaknesses with greater range and ceiling than the B26.
    The RAF chose to use the B26 in the Med and the B25 in Northern Europe while the USAAF chose to do things the opposite way around by using their B26's in Northern Europe and their B25's in the Med, my understanding is that this situation mostly occurred due to there having been a need for USAAF medium bombers in North Africa at a time when only the newly arrived B25's based in England were available, from what I can gather both aircraft were successful in both theatres.
    At wars end however the B26 was fast tracked to the scrapyard while the B25 managed for some years to secure a limited future in the new USAF, consequently today while we are rather flushed with B25's while only a very small number of B26's survive.
    I wonder if the early reputation of the B26 as a dangerous aircraft coupled with the fame of the B25 through it's various exploits such as the Doolittle raid was responsible for the B26s downfall and obscurity. I think in the B25 and B26 we have a rare opportunity to compare two separate aircraft on a level playing field.

    Please nobody bring Mosquitos into this.
     
  2. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    Pattle, yours was a nice, concise summary of B-25 vs. B-26. As a mental exercise, I tried to come up with my own list of the top 20 combat aircraft of World War II. I had the most problems with medium bombers.

    I can only guess the reason why the B-25 remained in service but the B-26 did not. The B-26 was like a 2-engined substitute for a heavy bomber. It's two engines were only 20% less powerful than the 4 engines on the B-24 and B-17. The B-26 could not bomb from the same altitude as the B-24 or B-17, and it didn't have the range of the heavies.

    The B-25 was somewhat less powerful than the B-26, but it was also lighter. Presumably, it was a lot less resource intensive to fly. That's extra important at the end of a long supply line. North American embraced the field experiments using the B-25 as a dedicated strafer and skip-bomber. After the war, the fact that the B-26 was slightly faster than the B-25 wasn't important. What was important was that the B-25 was readily available, had enough fuselage room to carry a useful load of people and stuff, was easy yet rewarding to fly and had low operating costs. Another factor moving the B-26 out to pasture was the arrival of the Douglas A-26 Invader. The A-26 carried the same or greater bomb load as the B-26 over the same or greater distance, but it was a good 50 MPH faster and had a smaller crew. A burst of production of A-26 models at the end of the war meant that there were enough A-26s around to man the front-line medium bomber units that remained after post-war downsizing.
     
  3. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    The B-25 was a good close support medium bomber as well as a solid gunship platform as the B-25G/H/J. The B-26 (not A-26) while being a handful to operate, proved it's worth with pinpoint strikes and it's ability to stay out of harm's way with it's speed.
    I think it would be hard to compare the two, honestly, as they both filled thier niches completely.
     
  4. pattle

    pattle Member

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    Um having had time to think about this a little more the thought I had in my head last night when I wrote this thread was more along the lines of which was the better bomber in Northern Europe rather than the better bomber in general. The Marauders operated by the SAAF, RAF and Twelfth Air Force in the general Mediterranean area did great things but as I have not read of them in many years they are not fresh in my memory, perhaps I should read a little on how both these bombers were used by the Americans in this theatre .
    I recently read a very good book called Third Reich Intruders which told the story of the RAF's medium bomber attacks against occupied Europe from UK bases. The RAF and USAAF eventually pretty much settled on using their respective B25's and B26's from between 10-15000 feet on similar targets. The RAF had far fewer B25's available than the USAAF had B26's, often it was the case that the RAF would carry out medium bomber raids with up to three sorts of bomber aircraft usually Havocs, B25s and Mosquitos in different waves at different heights. These raids were on occasion timed to coincide with USAAF B26 raids and both were escorted by liberal amounts of fighters.
    From what I have read the USAAF achieved great accuracy with the B26 in these medium level missions, if the USAAF had of had the B25 instead of the B26 in Northern Europe I wonder if it would have achieved the same level of success, I suspect the B26 was being used in a manner that exploited it's advantages and minimised it's weaknesses. Had the B25 been used in the B26's place in this theatre then my guess is that it's use would have also been tailored to it's best abilities and that while it's method of use may have been different there would have been little difference in results.
    Having had time to mull this over yet again, I think this thread should really of been "did the USAAF base B26's in England because they believed them to be superior to the B25?" I think there may be a common assumption that this was the case as it was true with other types of aircraft, for myself I think the situation arose through accident rather than by design.
     
  5. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #5 GregP, Sep 24, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016
    They built 9,984 B-25 Mitchells that flew 63,177 sorties and dropped 84,980 tons of bombs. That’s 1.3 tons per sortie. The loss rate per sortie was 0.0060, or 166 sorties per loss.

    They built 5,288 B-26 Marauders that flew 129,943 sorties and dropped 169,382 tons of bombs. That’s 1.3 tons per sortie. The loss rate per sortie was 0.0070, or 143 sorties per loss. Some say the B-26 was a handful to fly. From hearing guys that flew it, it wasn't. What was unusual was that it came over the fence some 25 - 35 mph faster than other, comparable aircraft of the time. So it SEEMED harded, but all that was happening was that the airstrip was disappearing a bit quicker on rollout.

    Those numbers are for the ETO and the tons are 2,000 pound tons (short tons). Offhand I’d say they were about even with the B-25 being much more versatile. It was used for recon, maritime patrol, had a ton of guns fitted for attack, and was safer around a short airstrip. But you would have to work some to prove one was significantly better than the other.

    Both were good planes to be in during WWII with significantly lower loss rates per sorties than any heavy that I am aware of.

    Interestingly enough, the Douglas A-26 Invader compares favorably, though with significantly less use. It only flew 11,567 sorties and dropped 18.054 tons of bombs for an average of 1.4 tons per sorties. The loss rate was 0.0058, or 173 sorties per loss. It got to the war fairly late but did well with respect to other US medium bombers ... though it was an Attack Plane by designation.

    The Douglas A-20 dropped 0.5 tons per sorties and had a loss rate roght between the B-25 and B-26.

    Again, these are ETO numbers.

    Found the numbers here: AOL Lifestream : Login
     
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  6. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you Greg,

    As the end of the war came it may be that with more B-25s available there were more spare parts available to keep them going?

    Put that together with the B-25 being easier to fly and the speed difference between the late versions was all that great (15-20mph?) and both were too slow and it may have been a no brainer as to which one was kept for a few more years.

    Note that this has very little to do with combat capability of the aircraft.
     
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  7. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #7 GregP, Sep 24, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016
    We have a B-25 at the Planes of Fame and it is very reliable and easy to fly. We don;t have a B-26, so I can't say from any personal experience, but the P&W R-2800 was VERY reliable. Can't say from any personal knowledge of the Marauder systems and airframe, but I suspect that the fact we had almost twice as many Mitchells after the war that were easier to fly (meaning slower in the pattern) may have something to do with it.

    If you fit the gun nose and side cannons, the B-25 was a formidable ground attack plane and despite the slight difference in bomb capacity, it carried the same payload per sortie as the B-26 did in the ETO.

    Shortround, which do you think had better combat capability? Maybe a short explanation as to why? I have no agenda here, just curious. We KNOW the B-26 delivered more bombs, but that may have been due more to missions assigned than to inherent capability, I can't say myself. All of the people I know with experience in either type are from the B-25 crowd, and they naturally favor the B-25.

    Can anybody with B-26 experience ring in here?
     
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  8. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    We may have to search the manuals. Some performance numbers seem very close and of course, vary by model.

    Early B-25s went 20,000lb empty and 31,000lbs gross while the "J" went 21,100 empty and 35,000 gross with a 41,800lb max over load using the same engines.

    Early B-26 went 21,741 pounds empty, and 28,367 pounds gross, 33,022 pounds maximum with the later B series (big wing) going 24,000 pounds empty, 37,000 pounds combat. later versions had even more weight but I can't fins it at the moment, Engines did increase in power some what but not a lot.

    Without breaking it down by model, weight, bomb load and fuel load it is going to be tough.
    The Navy used several hundred B-26s as target tugs and kept some of them until 1955.
     
  9. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Don't go looking too hard, SHortround.

    From your comment about haviung nothing to do with combat capability, I inferred you thought one was much better than the other. Incorrect assumption on my part it would appear. I was just curious.
     
  10. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Looking out for the speed figures for the B-26, seem it was good for 315 mph until the bigger wing was introduced. Once that was done, following shortly by wing inclination, the top speed went down to circa 280 mph. So while 1st B-26s were tough catch for Zeroes, hoping to run away from the Bf-109 or Fw-190 does look like a loosing proposal.

    B-26 Mardauder by Ray Wagner - Page 1
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Heavy bombers are expected to require a long paved runway. WWII era medium bombers are expected to operate from forward area grass airfields. B-25 was considerably better in this critical performance area which isn't obvious from looking at the performance summary.

    Which bomber had superior endurance (i.e. could loiter over battlefield)? Another important feature of a medium bomber.

    Both level bombed using Norden sight so I assume bombing accuracy should have been similar.
     
  12. Ivan1GFP

    Ivan1GFP Member

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    Pardon me for rambling a bit.

    Actually most B-26's didn't use the Norden bombsight. Their operations (at least in the MTO) were at low / medium level so the fancy Norden didn't help all that much. My former neighbour flew one with the 320th BG in MTO and they didn't even install oxygen in their planes. Typically at least one set of the package guns on the sides of the nose were removed and eventually on the later models, even the fixed gun firing through the nose cone on the lower right was removed. Another friend of mine flew B-25s during the war though we didn't talk much about that at the time.

    The B-26 had a reputation for being a "Hot Ship" while the B-25 didn't. Performance-wise, they were a pretty even match with about a 5-10 mph advantage to the B-26 at maximum. Early B-26s were capable of about 320 mph. Later versions were capable of around 285 mph. The B-25 was a draggy ship and the B-26 wasn't. The B-26 tended to leave the target in a shallow dive after the bomb run and was typically going about 350 mph TAS at that point which made it very hard to intercept. I don't know if the more draggy B-25 could do that as well.

    Although neither ship was a fighter, I have heard of more people doing fancy flying with the B-25 than trhe B-26.

    Although their maximum speeds were close, the Take-Off and Landing speeds of the B-26 were consideraly higher and losing an engine on take-off was more dangerous. Loads and balance on the B-26 were very critical with occasional nose gear failures when nose heavy. I have not heard the same stories with the B-25.

    The B-26 started with two bomb bays but on later versions, the Aft bomb bay was sealed and then removed. This reduced the bomb load to 4000 pounds which was actually a bit less than the 5500 or so that the B-25 could carry. I don't know what they actually flew with on a typical mission.

    Armament was pretty similar in the late versions in my opinion, but the B-26 had a reputation for being able to take more damage. FWIW, according to the Warbird Tech book, an attempt was made to fit R-2800 engines to a B-25. The speed was then around 350 mph, but the aircraft crashed after a structural failure in the air.

    Opinions:
    All in all, I believe the B-25 was the "better" aircraft. It was more adaptable to modifications and easier to operate. I believe the design was also better and less "cutting edge". There was nothing fancy about it. Changes to it didn't drastically change it.

    The B-26 was originally designed to be a VERY fast medium bomber with everything sacrificed for speed. Everything was balanced in the design for that with a tiny wing and highly supercharged engines. When the intended engines were not available, it lost some of that speed. When the "Baltimore Whore" gained bigger wings to improve its take-off and landing characteristics, it lost more of that speed. When the wing incidence was increased to improve its attitude at cruising speed and take-off, it lost even more speed though by that time it didn't matter much any more.

    Strangely, the B-26 always had a symmetrical airfoil more typically seen in aerobatic aircraft. This in my opinion was a serious mistake and instead of changing the airfoil, the choice was made to increase the angle of incidence. Looking at a late model (F or G) Marauder, I have always gotten the impression the aircraft could not decide which way to go. The engines and wing pointed one way while the fuselage pointed another. That could not have been good for drag.

    The B-26 was purchased off the drawing board and I believe this was also a mistake. The design had handling faults which never were cured. The Martin company also appeared more interested in just selling more aeroplanes than improving their product with one famous case involving Harry Truman.

    Hope this adds something to the discussion.

    - Ivan.
     
  13. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Defining which was the Better bomber depended entirely on the mission. The statistics on loss rates are probably misleading as the B-26, when moved to the 9th AF, was tasked to medium altitude precision daylight bombing. It penetrated to targets in western Germany out of range of continuous escort in late 1943. in 1944 it was accorded 9th AF fighter escort but smaller numbers so hard to know what the air to air defense impact to losses were but it is intuitive that the B-26 operated in murderous flak.

    The early experiences of the A-20 (first 8th AF bombing attack 4 July 1942) and B-25 and B-26, unescorted, were All disasters so it would be hard to gauge 'toughness' or survivability on the early experiences. Loss per sortie is interesting if all the sorties for each a/c were in the same high threat environment, but historically the B-26 seemed to operate in a higher threat (don't know the metrics) than either the B-25 or A-20.

    The A-26 flew the same mission profile in the 9th AF as the B-26 so it would seem to be comparative. Having said that the 1943 through Summer 1944 LW threat was far higher than when the A-26 started operations. This is also why it is tough to compare B-25 vs B-26 in ETO.

    My father flew all four at one time or another but only the A-26 in combat (Korea). During his career in peacetime he got most of his requisite monthly flight time while at Pentagon in B-25s out of Bolling AFB. It was hard to pin him down on the preference between B-25 and B-26 but he really liked the A/B-26 Invader and loved the A-20 as far as fun flying.

    Personally, the A/B-26 is by far the superior a/c, the B-25 was kept around because it was nearly the same performance as the B-26B but deemed a more forgiving airplane, cheaper to operate and used primarily as a utility aircraft and trainer. AFAIK the B-25 never served in combat for USAF after WWII as the A-26 took over all the combat missions of A-20, B-25 and B-26.
     
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  14. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Well said, Bill.

    There's really very little to add or disagree with in your reply.

    As an interesating aside, AeroTraders, across the tarmac from the Planes of Fame, is currently restoring an A-20 an A-26, and a B-25 all at the same time. The A-20 is coming along nicely and the A-26 will have everything functional, including the very complex gunner position that alows the gunner to select either the upper or lower turret via remote control and operate it.
     
  15. spicmart

    spicmart Member

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    Did the Marauder feature a laminar wing profile?
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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  17. Ivan1GFP

    Ivan1GFP Member

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    No. As I pointed out earlier, the airfoil choice was not optimal.

    - Ivan.
     
  18. OldSkeptic

    OldSkeptic Active Member

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    Wasn't the B-26 responsible for the term "one a day at Tampa Bay"? A reference to what a pig it was to fly and how many trainees (even experienced pilots) it killed, especially on take off and landing?

    I mean "required an unprecedented landing speed of 120 to 135 mph" .. what a disaster, who came up with that nonsense?

    Oh found it: "In 1942, Glenn Martin was called before the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, or Truman Committee, which was investigating defense contracting abuses. Senator Harry Truman, the committee chairman, asked Martin why the B-26 had troubles. Martin responded that the wings were too short. Truman asked why the wings weren't changed. When Martin said the plans were too far along and besides, his company already had the contract, Truman's response was quick and to the point: In that case, the contract would be canceled. Martin said corrections to the wings would be made.[11] (By February 1943, the newest model, the B-26B-10, had an additional 6 feet (1.8 m) of wingspan, plus uprated engines, more armor and larger guns.)[12]"

    Translated: they didn't give a S%$t.
     
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  19. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I am not sure whether some aircraft manufacturers in America were just in it for the money and didn't really care very much about the standard of their products or whether they were simply just manufacturing what was agreed between them and their government, I think there was some of both. The B25 was one of those planes where the designers had got everything pretty much right at their first attempt which you could argue left little room to later improve the B25.
     
  20. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Manufacturers may have been reluctant to change for a number of reasons. Without knowing the details of the contracts it is hard to judge. A lot of the later contracts were "cost plus", the actual cost to build the aircraft were figured out and the company was paid that price plus certain FIXED percentage' like 3%. Some contracts allowed for fluctuation in the "cost" of the aircraft.

    Say you have a contract for 1000 airplanes and it may have a problem (high landing speed) and the Government wants you to change the plane in mid production. Who pays for the new tooling? The original contract may have specified delivery dates, first 100 planes by date xxxxx, 500th plane by YYYY and 1000th plane by ZZZZ. Some contracts had penalties for late deliveries. The were also penalties for overweight aircraft ( try to add 6ft of wing wight NO increase in weight) and performance penalties. Each plane that failed to meet contract speed (-3%) was subject to a penalty for each mph it failed to make speed by.

    There may be a LOT of parts of the contract that need re-negotiation to fix the landing speed problem and if the company isn't really making that much money per plane to begin with ( and maybe they were, I don't know) claiming a company is "greedy" because they balk at certain changes doesn't seem quite fair.

    As far as the later B-26s go. Douglas had flown the prototype A-26 in July 1942. The Martin B-26 was a done deal in late 1943, they could tilt the existing wing 3.5 degrees (or some other number) or design and build not only a new wing but but new jigs and fixtures to build the new wing. It would not only cost money but could very well delay production (make more of the non-tilted versions while tooling up or do without?)
     
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