Douglas B-23 Dragon

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.

B-23 Dragon / UC-67
Douglas B-23
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

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.[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]

Operational history

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.[1] The B-23s were primarily relegated to training duties, although 18 of the type were 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.

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.


 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

Douglas B-23 N86E Athens 220473-1-
Douglas B-23/UC-67, 39-59, converted to executive transport role at Athens (Hellenikon) Airport in 1973. Broken up there by 1988.[4]
Douglas B-23 Dragon JBLM
Douglas B-23 Dragon at JBLM
Castle Air Museum B-23 Dragon
Douglas B-23 Dragon at Castle Air Museum
N61Y Douglas B-23 Dragon (8739029084)
Douglas B-23 Dragon at Pima Air & Space Museum


  • 39-031 (HC-APV) - Ecuadorian Air Museum, Quito.[5]

United States

On display


Under restoration or in storage



  • 39-0052 - largely complete wreck at Loon Lake, Idaho.[15]

Specifications (B-23 Dragon)

Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920[16]

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

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, January 1941.
  3. ^ Francillion, R.J. (1988). McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume I. Naval Institute Press. p. 304. ISBN 0 87021-428-4.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "UC-67 Dragon/39-031" Retrieved: 15 July 2013.
  6. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0036." McChord Air Museum. Retrieved: 31 May 2011.
  7. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0051." Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 31 May 2011.
  8. ^ "UC-67 Dragon/39-0047." Castle Air Museum. Retrieved: 15 December 2017.
  9. ^ "FAA Registry: N747M." Retrieved: 31 May 2011.
  10. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0037." USAF Museum. Retrieved: 18 November 2015.
  11. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0038." 1941 Historical Aircraft Group. Retrieved: 25 December 2010.
  12. ^ "FAA Registry: N4000B" Retrieved: 8 July 2014.
  13. ^ "FAA Registry: N777LW." Retrieved: 11 February 2012.
  14. ^ n777lw (registration) on Twitter
  15. ^ "B-23 Dragon/39-0052." Retrieved: 12 March 2015.
  16. ^ Francillon 1979, pp. 314, 317


  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London, Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd., 2002, (republished 1996 by the Chancellor Press), First edition 1982. ISBN 1-85152-706-0.

External links

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The squadron was first activated as the 89th Aero Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas during World War II. It deployed to France in 1917, where it constructed fields and trained observers, In 1918 it briefly trained as an observation unit, but the unit did not move to the front before the Armistice.

It was consolidated in the mid 1930s with the 89th Observation Squadron as the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron but remained inactive until 1940, when it was attached to the 17th Bombardment Group at March Field, California and equipped with medium bombers. In 1942 members of the squadron participated in the Doolittle Raid against Tokyo. The squadron, now named the 432d Bombardment Squadron, moved to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations and participated in combat until 1945, earning two Distinguished Unit Citations and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm before returning to the United States in late 1945 and being inactivated.

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Douglas military aircraft
Ground attack
Training aircraft
USAAS/USAAC/USAAF/USAF bomber designations, Army/Air Force and Tri-Service systems
Original sequences
Main sequence
Long-range Bomber
Tri-Service sequence
United States military transport aircraft designations, Army/Air Force and Tri-Service systems
Army/Air Force sequence
Tri-service sequence
Revived original sequence
Non-sequential designations


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