Douglas XB-43 Jetmaster

The Douglas XB-43 Jetmaster is an American 1940s jet-powered prototype bomber. The XB-43 was a development of the XB-42, replacing the piston engines of the XB-42 with two General Electric J35 engines of 4,000 lbf (17.8 kN) thrust each. Despite being the first American jet bomber to fly, it suffered stability issues and the design did not enter production.

XB-43 Jetmaster
Douglas XB-43
The first prototype aircraft, XB-43 number 44-61508
Role Prototype bomber aircraft
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight 17 May 1946
Number built 2
Developed from Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster

Design and development

United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) leaders in the Air Materiel Command began to consider the possibilities of jet-propelled bombers as far back as October 1943. At that time, Douglas Aircraft was just beginning to design a promising twin-engine bomber designated the XB-42. Reciprocating engines powered this aircraft but they were buried in the fuselage, leaving the laminar flow-airfoil wing clean of any drag-inducing pylon mounts or engine cowlings. The airframe appeared ideally suited to test turbojet propulsion. Douglas confirmed the feasibility of the concept and the USAAF amended the XB-42 contract in March 1944 to include the development of two turbojet-powered XB-43 prototypes, reduced from an initial order of 13 test aircraft.[1]

The Douglas design team convinced the Army that modifying the XB-42 static test airframe into the first XB-43 was a relatively straightforward process that would save time and money compared to developing a brand new design. Douglas replaced the two Allison V-1710 engines with a pair of General Electric (GE) J35 turbojets (the first American axial-flow jet engines ever used), then cut two air intakes into each side of the fuselage, aft of the pressurized cockpit. Removing the propellers and drive shafts freed enough space for two long jet exhaust ducts. Without any propellers present, there was no chance of striking the blade tips on the runway, so the entire ventral fin/rudder unit of the earlier XB-42's full four-surface cruciform tail was omitted. Douglas compensated for the loss of yaw stability by enlarging the dorsal fin/rudder unit.

Douglas Aircraft was keen to mass-produce the new bomber and the USAAF considered ordering 50. The company was poised to roll out as many as 200 B-43s per month in two versions: a bomber equipped with a clear plastic nose for the bombardier, and an attack aircraft without the clear nose and bombing station but carrying 16 forward-firing .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and 36 5 in (127 mm) rockets. Nothing came of these plans. The USAAF was already moving ahead with a new bomber, the XB-45 Tornado, designed from the outset for turbojet power and promising major improvement in every category of performance.

Operational history

XB-43 Color takeoff
The second aircraft, YB-43 Versatile II, taking off. Undated. Note the solid, orange nose-cone that replaced the original clear nose

As Douglas predicted, the work itself was not overly complex but almost two years were required to ready the aircraft for flight due to delays in obtaining the J35 powerplants.[1] The end of World War II caused a general slowdown within the aviation industry and GE was late delivering the engines. When they were at last installed and tested on the ground, one of the units failed catastrophically. Compressor blades exploded through the engine casing, damaging the surrounding airframe and injuring a ground technician. Another seven-month delay ensued for repairs. America's first turbojet bomber finally flew from Muroc Army Air Base on 17 May 1946, piloted by Douglas test pilot, Bob Brush, accompanied by engineer Russell Thaw.

Caught in a momentous technological shift, the XB-43 contributed to developing procedures for flying the new jet bombers, and it gave yeoman service testing new turbojet engines. Douglas completed the second prototype, AAF serial number 44-61509, flying on 15 May 1947 and delivered it to Muroc Air Force Base, California, in April 1948.[1] The USAAF soon replaced one J35 turbojet engine with a General Electric J47. Douglas delivered the second prototype, designated YB-43, in April 1948. That aircraft was nicknamed Versatile II by USAAF personnel. When the clear plastic nose began to crack from variations in temperature at high and low altitudes, mechanics fashioned a more durable replacement made from plywood. To keep it flying, the US Air Force cannibalized parts from the first XB-43 after it was damaged in February 1951. Versatile II flew more than 300 hours until its retirement in December 1953.[1]

The U.S. Air Force only considered the first prototype to fall under the XB-43 designation. The second prototype, though functionally identical to the first, was designated YB-43, consistent with its status as a follow-on prototype under the Army's designation system for aircraft. At one point, the aircraft may have also been designated as "attack" aircraft, A-43,[2] not to be confused with the Curtiss XP-87, a project which started as an attack aircraft under the same designation.[3] The A-43 was to have eight machine guns in a solid nose replacing the bombardier's position.

Douglas XB-43 parked

Aircraft disposition

Douglas XB-43 rear
Douglas XB-43 061020-F-1234S-009

Specifications (XB-43)

Data from McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920 : Volume I[6]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 51 ft 2 in (15.60 m)
  • Wingspan: 71 ft 2 in (21.69 m)
  • Height: 24 ft 3 in (7.39 m)
  • Wing area: 563 sq ft (52.3 m2)
  • Airfoil: Douglas G-17[7]
  • Empty weight: 21,775 lb (9,877 kg)
  • Gross weight: 37,000 lb (16,783 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 39,533 lb (17,932 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric J35-GE-3 turbojet engines, 3,750 lbf (16.7 kN) thrust each


  • Maximum speed: 515 mph (829 km/h, 448 kn) at sea level
  • Cruise speed: 420 mph (680 km/h, 360 kn)
  • Range: 1,100 mi (1,800 km, 960 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 2,840 mi (4,570 km, 2,470 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 38,500 ft (11,700 m)
  • Wing loading: 65.7 lb/sq ft (321 kg/m2)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.2041


  • Guns:
    • 2 × 0.50 in (13 mm) machine guns in a remotely operated tail mount, never installed.
    • Planned attack variant: 8 × 0.50 in (13 mm) machine guns in solid nose
  • Bombs: 8,000 lb (3,600 kg)

See also

Related development

Related lists



  1. ^ a b c d O'Leary 1994, p. 75.
  2. ^ "Fact Sheet: Douglas YB-43 Jetmaster." Archived December 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine National Museum of the Air Force. Retrieved: 12 June 2010.
  3. ^ "Fact Sheet: Curtiss A-43." Archived September 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 12 June 2010.
  4. ^ "XB-43 Jetmaster/44-61508." Joe Baugher's Serial Numbers. Retrieved: 10 May 2013.
  5. ^ "YB-43 Jetmaster/44-61509." Archived December 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 10 May 2013.
  6. ^ Francillon, René J. (1988). McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920 : Volume I. London: Naval Institute Press. pp. 406–409. ISBN 0870214284.
  7. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.


  • Jones, Lloyd. U.S. Bombers. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, 1974. ISBN 0-8168-9126-5.
  • O'Leary, Michael, ed. "America's First Jet Bomber" America's Forgotten Wings, Volume 1, 1994, pp. 66–75.
  • Wagner, Ray. American Combat Planes. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1968. ISBN 0-385-04134-9.

External links

Allison J35

The General Electric/Allison J35 was originally developed by General Electric (GE company designation TG-180) in parallel with the Whittle-based centrifugal-flow J33, and was the United States Air Force's first axial-flow (straight-through airflow) compressor engine. The J35 was fairly simple, consisting of an eleven-stage axial-flow compressor and a single-stage turbine. With the afterburner, which most models carried, it produced a thrust of 7,400 lbf (32.92 kN).

Like the J33, the design of the J35 originated at General Electric, but major production was by the Allison Engine Company.

Douglas Aircraft Company

The Douglas Aircraft Company was an American aerospace manufacturer based in Southern California. It was founded in 1921 by Donald Wills Douglas Sr. and later merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas, when it then operated as a division of McDonnell Douglas. McDonnell Douglas later merged with Boeing in 1997.

Douglas F3D Skyknight

The Douglas F3D Skyknight (later designated F-10 Skyknight) is an American twin-engined, mid-wing jet fighter aircraft manufactured by the Douglas Aircraft Company in El Segundo, California. The F3D was designed as a carrier-based all-weather night fighter and saw service with the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. The mission of the F3D was to search out and destroy enemy aircraft at night.The F3D Skyknight was never produced in great numbers but it did achieve many firsts in its role as a night fighter over Korea. While it never achieved the fame of the North American F-86 Sabre, it did down several Soviet-built MiG-15s as a night fighter over Korea with only one air-to-air loss of its own against a Chinese MiG-15, which occurred on the night of 29 May 1953.The Skyknight played an important role in the development of the radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missile which led to further guided air-to-air missile developments. It also served as an electronic warfare platform in the Vietnam War as a precursor to the EA-6A Intruder and EA-6B Prowler. The aircraft is sometimes unofficially called "Skynight", dropping the second "k". The unusual, portly profile earned it the nickname "Willie the Whale". Some Vietnam War U.S. Marine veterans have referred to the Skyknight as "Drut", whose meaning becomes obvious when read backwards. This may be in reference to its age, unflattering looks or its low-slung air intakes that made it vulnerable to foreign object damage (FOD).

Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster

The Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster was an experimental bomber aircraft, designed for a high top speed. The unconventional approach was to mount the two engines within the fuselage driving a pair of contra-rotating propellers mounted at the tail in a pusher configuration, leaving the wing and fuselage clean and free of drag-inducing protrusions.

Two prototype aircraft were built, but the end of World War II changed priorities and the advent of the jet engine gave an alternative way toward achieving high speed.

Earl Schuyler Kleinhans

Earl Schuyler (Sky) Kleinhans (February 3, 1905 – September 21, 1996) was an airplane and flying boat aeronautical engineering pioneer with primary experience at Sikorsky and Douglas Aircraft where he advanced over a 36-year career to become chief engineer and retired as the chairman of the scientific advisory board in 1969 for McDonnell Douglas.

List of aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force

The National Museum of the United States Air Force has one of the world's largest collections with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display.

Russell Thaw

Russell William Thaw (October 25, 1910 – May 6, 1984) was a child actor and pilot. He was the only child of the model and actress Evelyn Nesbit.

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


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