B-24J Liberator Desktop Model Airplane w/ AN-M59 Bomb & AN-M66 Bomb Desktop Model
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The Liberator originated from a United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) request in 1938 for Consolidated to produce the B-17 under license. This was part of "Project A", a program to expand American industrial capacity for production of the key components of air power. After company executives including President Reuben Fleet visited the Boeing factory in Seattle, Consolidated decided instead to submit a more modern design of its own. In January 1939, the USAAC, under Specification C-212, formally invited Consolidated to submit a design study for a bomber with longer range, higher speed, and greater ceiling than the B-17.
The contract for a prototype was awarded in March 1939, with the requirement that one should be ready before the end of the year. The design was simple in concept but nevertheless advanced for its time. Compared to the B-17, the proposed Model 32 was shorter with 25% less wing area, but had a 6 ft (1.8 m) greater wingspan and a substantially larger carrying capacity, as well as a distinctive twin tail. Whereas the B-17 used 9-cylinder Wright R-1820 Cyclone engines, the Consolidated design used twin-row, 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1830 "Twin Wasp" radials of 1,000 hp (746 kW). The 70,547 lb (32,000 kg) maximum takeoff weight was one of the highest of the period. Consolidated incorporated innovative features: the new design would be the first American bomber to use tricycle landing gear, and it had long, thin wings with the efficient "Davis" high aspect ratio design (also used on the projected Model 31 twin-engined commercial flying boat) promising to provide maximum fuel efficiency. Wind tunnel testing and experimental programs using an existing Consolidated Model 31 provided extensive data on the flight characteristics of the Davis airfoil.
Consolidated finished the prototype, by then known as the XB-24, and had it ready for its first flight two days before the end of 1939. Seven more YB-24 development aircraft flew in 1940 and Consolidated began preparing production tooling. Early orders—placed before the XB-24 had flown—included 36 for the USAAC, 120 for the French Armée de l'Air and 164 for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Most of the first production B-24s went to Great Britain, including all those originally ordered by the Armée de l'Air after France collapsed and surrendered in 1940. The name, "Liberator", was originally assigned to it by the RAF, and subsequently adopted by the USAAF as the official name for the type.