The Last Peacemaker, a gigantic airplane, a Convair B-36J-10-CF Peacemaker, serial number 52-2827, was the very last of the ten-engine strategic bombers built at Fort Worth, Texas, completed 1st of July 1954. It was delivered to the Strategic Air Command, 92nd Bombardment Wing, Heavy, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, 14th of August 1954. Later, it was assigned to the 95th Bombardment Wing at El Paso, Texas.

The last one built, 52-2827 was also the last operational B-36.

On 12th of February 1959, after 4 years, 5 months, 30 days service, the Air Force returned the bomber to Fort Worth. 52-2827 departed Biggs Air Force Base at 11:00 a.m., under the command of Major Frederick J. Winter, with 23 persons on board. It touched down at Amon Carter Field at 2:55 p.m.

After a ceremony attended by thousands, the bomber was officially retired. It was put on display at Amon Carter Field. After decades of neglect, the bomber was placed in the care of the Pima Air and Space Museum at Tucson for restoration and display.

The last Peacemaker, Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827, comes to the end of the assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by University of North Texas Libraries)

Convair B-36J 52-2827 is one of 14 “Featherweight III” high altitude variants. It was built without the six retractable defensive gun turrets of the standard B-36, retaining only the two M24A1 20 mm autocannons in the tail. This reduced the crew requirement to 13. It is 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 9 inches (14.249 meters). The empty weight is 166,125 pounds (75,353 kilograms) and loaded weight is 262,500 pounds (119,068 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds (185,973 kilograms).

The B-36J has ten engines. There are six 4,362.5 cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter), air-cooled, supercharged Pratt and Whitney R-4360-53 Wasp Major four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines, producing 3,800 horsepower, each. The engines are located inside the wings and drive 19 foot (5.791 meter) diameter three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible propellers in a pusher configuration. The propeller gear reduction ratio is 0.375:1. Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines, modified to run on gasoline and producing 5,200 pounds of thrust, each, are suspended under the wings in two-engine pods.

The B-36J Featherweight III had a cruise speed of 230 miles per hour (370 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 418 miles per hour (673 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 43,600 feet (13,289 meters) and its combat radius was 3,985 miles (6,413 kilometers). The maximum range was 10,000 miles (16,093 kilometers).

Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827 at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. (B-36 Peacemaker Museum)

The B-36 was designed during World War II and nuclear weapons were unknown to the Convair engineers. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in the four-section bomb bay. It could carry the 43,600 pound (19,777 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb. When armed with nuclear weapons, the B-36 could carry several Mk.15 thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 25-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only five still exist.

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Text author: Bryan R. Swopes