B-23 Dragon | Passive Traveler

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The Douglas B-23 Dragon was a further refinement and major redesign of the B-18A Bolo, featuring more powerful engines, better defensive armament, a larger wingspan and a fully retractable landing gear. After approval of the USAAC, the original contract for the production of the last 38 B-18A’s changed so that these 38 planes would be the B-23. No further units were produced and they never saw combat, but were used in secondary roles instead.

History and general Information

Due to the (by then) lackluster performance of the B-18, Douglas tried to improve their design by equipping it with 1’600hp Wright R-2600-3 engines. This was then designated XB-22 but was rejected due to still not meeting the USAAC’s requirements. Following this, Douglas went for a major redesign of the B-18 by utilizing multiple features of their civilian designs such as the DC-3. This resulted in the B-23 Dragon, taking the Wright R-2600-3 engines and combining them with a lightened and improved airframe, larger wings and tail surfaces aswell as better defensive weaponry, now featuring 3x .30 Cal machineguns and 1x .50Cal machinegun in the tail. This was a first for the USAAC, as there have not been any tail gunner positions on previous aircraft.

Due to favorable calculated performance numbers, the USAAC modified their contract with Douglas so that the final B-18A Bolos be instead produced as B-23 Dragons. This was a bit unusual, as there were no pervious prototypes that are usually required. The first production aircraft still completed some testflights and service evaluations before officially being accepted.

The B-23s were issued to the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron in California in 1940 after being evaluated by the Materiel Division in Wright Field and briefly served as patrol aircraft. The planes never saw combat service as they were outclassed by other aircraft such as the B-17 and B-25 but were used in many unique experiments or converted into the UC-67 transports in 1943. After the War, the remaining B-23s and UC-67s were sold as surplus and ended up as corporate transports or with the engineering department of PanAm for special modifications. Due to their civilian servicelife, many of the 38 airframes are still around and several are still airworthy.

Specifications of the B-23

Crew: 6
Length: 17,8m
Wingspan: 28m
Height: 5,6m
Wing Area 92,3 m²
Empty/max Mass: 8’659kg / 14’696kg
Powerplant: 2x Wright Cyclone R-2600-3 with 1’600hp each

Maximum Speed: 454km/h
Range: 2’300km
Surface ceiling: 9’600m

Defensive Armament: 3x .30Cal Browning machineguns + 1x .50Cal M2 Browning machinegun
Suspended Armament: either 2’000lb or 4’000lb, sources conflict

Pictures

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Sources

Jesse, William (1999), ‘Short-lived Dragon: The Douglas B-23’. Air Enthusiast (81)
Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London, Putnam, 1979

McChord Air Museum - B-23 Dragon

If there is a bomber variant then sure