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Responding to the U.S. Army Air Forces' requirement for a strategic bomber with intercontinental range, Consolidated Vultee (later Convair) designed the B-36 during World War II. The airplane made its maiden flight in August 1946, and in June 1948 the Strategic Air Command received its first operational B-36. Some B-36s served as photographic reconnaissance aircraft, and others were adapted to launch and retrieve specially modified RF-84F/K reconnaissance planes.
Powered by six Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engines, the B-36J cruised at 230 mph, but for additional bursts of speed its four General Electric J47s increased the maximum speed to 435 mph. It carried 86,000 pounds of nuclear or conventional bombs. When production ended in August 1954, more than 380 B-36s had been built for the U.S. Air Force. In 1958-1959, the USAF replaced the B-36 with the all-jet B-52. Although never used in combat, the B-36 was a major deterrent to enemy aggression. Making the last B-36 flight ever, the aircraft on display flew to the museum from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., on April 30, 1959.
Also by Elias Reveles
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