Douglas B-23 Dragon
|B-23 Dragon / UC-67|
|A B-23 Dragon in USAAC markings during the early 1940s|
|National origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||Douglas Aircraft Company|
|First flight||27 July 1939|
|Primary user||United States Army Air Corps|
|Developed from||Douglas B-18 Bolo|
Design and development
Douglas proposed a number of modifications designed to improve the performance of the B-18. Initially considered a redesign, the XB-22 featured 1,600 hp Wright R-2600-1 Twin Cyclone radial engines. The complete B-18 redesign was considered promising enough by the USAAC to alter the original contract to produce the last 38 B-18As ordered under Contract AC9977 as the B-23. The design incorporated a larger wingspan with a wing design very similar to that of the DC-3, a fully retractable undercarriage, and improved defensive armament. The B-23 was the first operational American bomber equipped with a glazed tail gun position. The tail gun was a .50 calibre (12.7 mm) machine gun, which was fired from the prone position by a gunner using a telescopic sight.
The first B-23 flew on July 27, 1939 with the production series of 38 B-23s manufactured between July 1939 and September 1940.
While significantly faster and better armed than the B-18, the B-23 was not comparable to newer medium bombers like the North American B-25 Mitchell and Martin B-26 Marauder. For this reason, the 38 B-23s built were never used in combat overseas, although for a brief period they were employed as patrol aircraft stationed on the west coast of the United States. The B-23s were primarily relegated to training duties, although 18 of them were later converted as transports and redesignated UC-67.
The B-23 also served as a testbed for new engines and systems. For example, one was used for turbosupercharger development by General Electric at Schenectady, New York. Another was used for testing cabin pressurization.
After World War II, many examples were used as executive transports, with appropriate internal modifications, and as a result a large number have survived. With its wartime experience with the type, GE bought and used five of them. Howard Hughes (among others) used converted B-23s as personal aircraft.
- Twin-engined bomber version of the B-18 with modified fuselage, 38 built.
- Conversion to utility transport with provision for glider towing, 12 conversions from B-23, redesignated UC-67 in 1943.
- C-67 redesignated in 1943.
- 39-0036 - McChord Air Museum in McChord AFB, Washington.
- 39-0051 - Pima Air & Space Museum adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.
Under restoration or in storage
- 39-0033 - to airworthiness by ATW Aviation in Marana, Arizona.
- 39-0037 - in storage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.
- 39-0038 - for display at the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum in Geneseo, New York.
- 39-0057 - in storage at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.
- 39-0063 - to airworthiness by private owner in Anchorage, Alaska. Currently stored at Grant County International Airport, Moses Lake, Washington. Flew in 2017.
Specifications (B-23 Dragon)
Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920
- Crew: Six
- Length: 58 ft 4+3⁄4 in (17.799 m)
- Wingspan: 92 ft 0 in (28.04 m)
- Height: 18 ft 5+1⁄2 in (5.626 m)
- Wing area: 993 sq ft (92.3 m2)
- Empty weight: 19,089 lb (8,659 kg)
- Gross weight: 26,500 lb (12,020 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 32,400 lb (14,696 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-2600-3 radial engine, 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 282 mph (454 km/h, 245 kn) at 12,000 ft (3,660 m)
- Cruise speed: 210 mph (340 km/h, 180 kn)
- Range: 1,400 mi (2,300 km, 1,200 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 31,600 ft (9,600 m)
- Time to altitude: 6.7 minutes to 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
- Guns: 3 × .30 in (7.62 mm) machine guns, 1 × .50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun in tail
- Bombs: 2,000 lb (910 kg) in bomb bay
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era
- List of aircraft of World War II
- List of bomber aircraft
- List of military aircraft of the United States
- Mondey 1982, p. 111.
- "Stinger Gun in Plane's Tail Guards Vulnerable Spot". Popular Science. Vol. 75 no. 1. January 1941. p. 6. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
- Francillion, R.J. (1988). McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume I. Naval Institute Press. p. 304. ISBN 0 87021-428-4.
- "Have You Seen?". Flying. Vol. 37 no. 1. July 1945. p. 73. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
- Goodall, Geoffrey (1 December 2020). "Douglas" (PDF). Geoff Goodall's Aviation History Site. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
- "UC-67 Dragon/39-031" aviationmuseum.eu Retrieved: 15 July 2013.
- "B-23 Dragon/39-0036." McChord Air Museum. Retrieved: 31 May 2011.
- "B-23 Dragon/39-0051." Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 31 May 2011.
- "UC-67 Dragon/39-0047." Castle Air Museum. Retrieved: 15 December 2017.
- "FAA Registry: N747M." FAA.gov Retrieved: 15 July 2021.
- "B-23 Dragon/39-0037." USAF Museum. Retrieved: 18 November 2015.
- "B-23 Dragon/39-0038." 1941 Historical Aircraft Group. Retrieved: 25 December 2010.
- "FAA Registry: N4000B" FAA.gov Retrieved: 15 July 2021.
- "FAA Registry: N777LW." FAA.gov Retrieved: 15 July 2021.
- n777lw (registration) on Twitter
- "B-23 Dragon/39-0052." aerialvisuals.ca Retrieved: 12 March 2015.
- "Idaho History May 21, 2017". The Yellow Pine Times. 20 November 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
- Francillon 1979, pp. 314, 317
- Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London, Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
- Jesse, William (May–June 1999). "Short-lived Dragon: The Douglas B-23". Air Enthusiast (81): 70–72. ISSN 0143-5450.
- Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group, 2002, (republished 1996 by the Chancellor Press), First edition 1982. ISBN 1-85152-706-0.
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