The B-34 Razorback is the principle twin-engine military aircraft of United States Army Air Forces and United States Naval Aviation forces. Often called the "Little Fortress" for the resemblence of parts of the aircraft to the B-50 Superfortress Strategic bomber, particularly the nose section, as well as its vaunted mechanical reliability, the Razorback is probably the most multipurpose aircraft in the American arsenal and is positively adored by its crews. The B-34 fufills a vast variety of roles and, despite their marked preference for twin- over four-engine bombers, has no direct analogue in the Russian Imperial Air Force - being equivalent to several enemy aircraft. Razorbacks act as day and night tactical bombers, heavy ground attack craft, torpedo bombers, bomber destroyers and reconnaissance planes.
The B-34 Razorback is a sleek, high speed / low drag twin-engine multirole aircraft. Large numbers of the planes are operated by all aviation branches of the U.S. military and many of its allies. The Razorback is the realization of the "Fast Bomber" (or Schnellbomber, from the Germans who originally conceived it) - that is, a twin-engine bomber that can outrun pursuing fighters and thus requires no escort. To this end, the Razorback is powered by compound engines. Each nacelle contains two 1,600 hp Allison IV-2050 V-12 aircraft engines mounted around a single cooling system and a crank-case fitted with a "turbo-compound" blow-down turbine to help recover engine exhaust gasses and increase performance, creating one compound power plant with a net output of about 4,000 hp. Each engine in the pair drives one set of blades on a contra-rotating propeller system to increase efficiency and reduce drive shaft stresses. Although, as a powerplant, this arrangement is inferior in raw output to massive radial engines like the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major and the Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclone, it is much more compact and therefore ideal for use on an aircraft like the Razorback, where aerodynamics and drag reduction are major considerations in order to coax as much speed as possible from the airframe. The contrast between the plane's sleek, predatory, shark-like design and its name, Razorback - i.e. a wild hog - has led to a number of rather entertaining nicknames, among them "Slick pig" and "Silver Sow".
Although its great speed is its primary defense, the B-34 is not without armament. In terms of fixed, forward-firing guns, the Razorback has four 25mm Colt Mk. 16 automatic cannons mounted in the lower part of its glass panel "greenhouse" nose and fired by the pilot. The front also has a flexible dual .50-calibre mount at the tip of the nose, fired by the navigator / bombardier who is positioned in front of and below the pilot. There are also two Radar-controlled gun turrets with two M2 .50-cals each: one dorsal turret mounted a short ways behind the glass nose section near the leading edge of the wings, and a ventral turret further back along the belly, behind the wings and bomb-bay. Finally, there is a tail gun - also Radar-controlled - with two 25mm cannons, operated remotely. The Razorback's crew totals 7 - Navigator/bombardier and pilot in the nose, radio operator and radar operator just behind them in the forward fuselage and three gunners at remote stations located at the middle of the aircraft, behind the bomb bay.
In terms of ordnance, the B-34 has an internal bomb-bay capable of carrying 2,200 kg / 4,850 lbs of bombs, which is achieved by extending the compartment out into the wing roots. It can also carry additional munitions externally, such as racks of HVAR rockets under its wings or a pair of torpedoes under the fuselage, though this blocks the bomb-bay doors. The two methods are not normally mixed, due to excessive weight and drag that would impair the aircraft's performance.
"Attack" versions of the Razorback, designated A-34 rather than B-34, replace their bomb-bay with an aerodynamically-conforming "gondola" bulge on the underside of the fuselage. This is used to mount a quartet of 50mm cannons, while the internal ordnance space is devoted to ammunition. A-34s also typically carry HVAR rockets under their wings, and are used for attacking hardened ground targets and enemy armor. This version of the Razorback is also capable of fitting a ventral torpedo rack, however, and is used as the basis of a reconnaissance plane with camera and weather gear in place of the four heavy cannon.
AppearanceEditThe B-34 Razorback has a long fuselage with a bullet-like glass nose and an elliptical cross-section when viewed from the front. The number of bulges and disruptions along its body was kept to a minimum, and the only breakage in its smooth lines are two small disk-shaped gun turrets. In most respects, it bears a very close resemblence to the Heinkel He-111. However, the Razorback lacks the prominent bulges of the Heinkel's gun positions and has a double tail with a remote-control gun position. It also has contra-rotating propellers, is a bit longer and has slightly larger wings.
Number Produced: ~5,230 & counting
Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright Company, Grunwald Aeronautics, Massachusetts Aircraft Works
Crew: 7 (Pilot, Navigator/bomardier, Radio Technician, Radar Operator, Dorsal Gunner, Ventral Gunner, Tail Gunner)
Length: 18 meters / 59 feet [not including tail or nose gun barrels]
Wingspan: 25 meters / 82 feet
Height: 4.25 meters / 13.9 feet
Powerplant: Compound Inverted V-24 Variable Discharge Turbine engine [paired Allison IV-2050 V-12s] x 2
Maximum Speed: 690 km/h / 429 mph
Combat Radius: 2,500 km / 1533 miles [without external tanks]
Service Ceiling [Approximate]: 10,000 km / 33,000 feet
Rate of Climb: 14 m/s (46 feet per second)
Colt Mk.16 25mm automatic cannons x 6
- 4 fixed forward firing cannons in lower nose section, controlled by pilot
- 2 in remote Radar-controlled tail turret, operated by tail gunner from remote station
Browning M2 0.50-calibre HMG x 6
- Twinned AN/M3 variants in flexible nose mount, controlled by Bombardier/Navigator
- Two Browning AN/M3 variants in Radar-controlled dorsal turret, operated by dorsal gunner from remote station
- Two Browning AN/M3 variants in Radar-controlled ventral turret, operated by ventral gunner from remote station
2,200 kg / 4850 lbs of ordnance in internal bomb bay
Up to 4000 kg / 8818.5 lbs of ordnance carried externally
- HVAR Rockets x 12 AND / OR:
- Mark 42 Anti-surface Torpedoes OR Mark 44 ASW Torpedoes x 2
Browning M7 50mm automatic cannon x 4 [A-34 variant only]