Douglas B-23 Dragon

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B-23 Dragon / UC-67
A B-23 Dragon in USAAC markings during the early 1940s
Role Medium bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight 27 July 1939
Primary user United States Army Air Corps
Number built 38
Developed from Douglas B-18 Bolo

The Douglas B-23 Dragon is an American twin-engined bomber developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company as a successor to (and a refinement of) the B-18 Bolo.

Design and development[edit]

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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[2]

The first B-23 flew on July 27, 1939 with the production series of 38 B-23s manufactured between July 1939 and September 1940.[3]

B-23 Dragon front
B-23 Dragon side

Operational history[edit]

While significantly faster and better armed than the B-18,[4] 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.[1] The B-23s were primarily relegated to training duties, although 18 of them were later converted as transports and redesignated UC-67[4]

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.[5]

After World War II, many examples were used as executive transports, with appropriate internal modifications, and as a result a large number have survived, both in public and private collections.[4] Howard Hughes (among others) used converted B-23s as personal aircraft.


 United States


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.

Surviving aircraft[edit]

Douglas B-23 Dragon at JBLM
Douglas B-23 Dragon at Castle Air Museum
Douglas B-23 Dragon at Pima Air & Space Museum


  • 39-031 (HC-APV) - Ecuadorian Air Museum, Quito.[6]

United States[edit]

On display[edit]


Under restoration or in storage[edit]




Specifications (B-23 Dragon)[edit]

3-view silhouette of the Douglas B-23 Dragon
3-view silhouette of the Douglas B-23 Dragon

Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920[17]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Six
  • Length: 58 ft 4+34 in (17.799 m)
  • Wingspan: 92 ft 0 in (28.04 m)
  • Height: 18 ft 5+12 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

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ a b c Mondey 1982, p. 111.
  2. ^ "Stinger Gun in Plane's Tail Guards Vulnerable Spot". Popular Science. Vol. 75, no. 1. January 1941. p. 6. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  3. ^ Francillion, R.J. (1988). McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume I. Naval Institute Press. p. 304. ISBN 0 87021-428-4.
  4. ^ a b c "McChord Air Museum Homepage - Douglas B-23 Dragon (s/n 39-36) 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, McChord AAF". Retrieved 2023-03-31.
  5. ^ "Have You Seen?". Flying. Vol. 37, no. 1. July 1945. p. 73. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  6. ^ "UC-67 Dragon/39-031" Retrieved: 15 July 2013.
  7. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0036." McChord Air Museum. Retrieved: 31 May 2011.
  8. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0051." Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 31 May 2011.
  9. ^ "UC-67 Dragon/39-0047." Castle Air Museum. Retrieved: 15 December 2017.
  10. ^ "FAA Registry: N747M." Retrieved: 15 July 2021.
  11. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0037." USAF Museum. Retrieved: 18 November 2015.
  12. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0038." 1941 Historical Aircraft Group. Retrieved: 25 December 2010.
  13. ^ "FAA Registry: N4000B" Retrieved: 15 July 2021.
  14. ^ "FAA Registry: N777LW." Retrieved: 15 July 2021.
  15. ^ n777lw (registration) on Twitter
  16. ^ "Idaho History May 21, 2017". The Yellow Pine Times. 20 November 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  17. ^ 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.

External links[edit]