Dubbed the “Billion-dollar Blunder” by some (not the first or the last…ehem F-35), the B-36 Peacemaker was developed after World War II to deliver nuclear weapons.
Calling the Convair B-36 Peacemaker the “Billion-dollar Blunder” isn’t exactly fair, even though that’s the alternate nickname for the huge bomber built after World War II.
The B-36 was a six-engine aircraft with the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built at 230 feet. The engines were “pushers” and mounted on the back of the wings. It had the capability of delivering all of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal from its four bomb bays and had range of 10,000 miles.
The Peacemaker became operational in 1949 and it was soon obsolete. When the Korean War started in 1950, the U.S. first encountered the Soviet MiG-15 fighter. Jet fighters versus propeller-driven bombers was a mismatch of epic proportions. The development of more powerful jet engines made the B-36 an unnecessarily large target that was slow, expensive to operate, and challenging to maintain.
Late to the party
The B-36’s testing and development encountered a number of problems that increased the cost and pushed the project to the billion-dollar level – which at the time was an astronomical number in terms of aircraft development.
While the B-36 remained in the USAF fleet until 1959, it was quickly surpassed by the B-47 Stratojet and then the B-52 Stratfortress as the USAF’s strategic long-range bomber. By 1959, the B-36 was no longer in service and the 384 aircraft that were built were sent to the bone yard or museums.
In the end, the Peacemaker was the victim of jet age.