The Martin B-10 was the first all-metal monoplane bomber to be regularly used by the United States Army Air Corps, entering service in June 1934. It was also the first mass-produced bomber whose performance was superior to that of the Army's pursuit aircraft of the time.
The B-10 served as the airframe for the B-12, B-13, B-14, A-15 and O-45 designations using Pratt & Whitney engines instead of Wright Cyclones. A total of 348 of all versions were built. Biggest users were the USA, with 166, and the Netherlands, with 121.
Design and development
The B-10 began a revolution in bomber design. Its all-metal monoplane airframe, along with its features of closed cockpits, rotating gun turrets, retractable landing gear, internal bomb bay, and full engine cowlings, would become the standard for bomber designs worldwide for decades. It made all existing bombers completely obsolete. In 1932, Martin received the Collier Trophy for designing the XB-10.
The B-10 began as the Martin Model 123, a private venture by the Glenn L. Martin Company of Baltimore, Maryland. It had a crew of four: pilot, copilot, nose gunner and fuselage gunner. As in previous bombers, the four crew compartments were open, but it had a number of design innovations as well.
These innovations included a deep belly for an internal bomb bay and retractable main landing gear. Its 600 hp (447 kW) Wright SR-1820-E Cyclone engines provided sufficient power. The Model 123 first flew on 16 February 1932 and was delivered for testing to the U.S. Army on 20 March as the XB-907. After testing it was sent back to Martin for redesigning and was rebuilt as the XB-10.
The XB-10 delivered to the Army had major differences from the original aircraft. Where the Model 123 had Townend rings, the XB-10 had full NACA cowlings to decrease drag. It also sported a pair of 675 hp (503 kW) Wright R-1820-19 engines, and an Script error: No such module "convert". increase in the wingspan, along with an enclosed nose turret. When the XB-10 flew during trials in June, it recorded a speed of 197 mph (317 km/h) at 6,000 ft (1,830 m). This was an impressive performance for 1932.
Following the success of the XB-10, a number of changes were made, including reduction to a three-man crew, addition of canopies for all crew positions, and an upgrade to 675 hp (503 kW) engines. The Army ordered 48 of these on 17 January 1933. The first 14 aircraft were designated YB-10 and delivered to Wright Field, starting in November 1933. The production model of the XB-10, the YB-10 was very similar to its prototype.
In 1935, the Army ordered an additional 103 aircraft designated B-10B. These had only minor changes from the YB-10. Shipments began in 1935 July. B-10Bs served with the 2d Bomb Group at Langley Field, the 9th Bomb Group at Mitchel Field, the 19th Bomb Group at March Field, the 6th Composite Group in the Panama Canal Zone, and the 4th Composite Group in the Philippines. In addition to conventional duties in the bomber role, some modified YB-10s and B-12As were operated for a time on large twin floats for coastal patrol.
With an advanced performance, the Martin company fully expected that export orders for the B-10 would come flooding in.
The Army owned the rights to the Model 139 design. Once the Army's orders had been filled in 1936, Martin received permission to export Model 139s, and delivered versions to several air forces. For example, six Model 139Ws were sold to Siam in April 1937, powered by Wright R-1820-G3 Cyclone engines; 20 Model 139Ws were sold to Turkey in September 1937, powered by R-1820-G2 engines.
On 19 May 1938, during the Sino-Japanese War, two Chinese Nationalist Air Force B-10s successfully flew to Japan. However, rather than dropping bombs, the aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets.
The Dutch Martins fought in the defense of Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies.
At the time of its creation, the B-10B was so advanced that General Henry H. Arnold described it as the airpower wonder of its day. It was half again as fast as any biplane bomber, and faster than any contemporary fighter. The B-10 began a revolution in bomber design; it made all existing bombers completely obsolete.
Rapid advances in bomber design in the late 1930s meant that the B-10 was eclipsed by the time the United States entered World War II. The 139s in combat in China and South East Asia suffered the same disadvantages as the other early war medium bombers, i.e. not enough armour and guns, while it couldn't outrun the latest fighters. Nevertheless, the 166 had the highest performance of all the medium bombers in the theatre at the time, early 1942.
An abortive effort to modernize the design, the Martin Model 146, was entered into a USAAC long-distance bomber design competition 1934–1935, but lost out to the Douglas B-18 and much bigger Boeing B-17. The B-18 was hardly superior to the B-10 and actually inferior to the latest B-10 version, the model 166.
- Martin Model 123
Private venture of Martin company, predecessor of the XB-10, served as prototype for the series, one built.
- US Army designation for the Model 123 in evaluation, with open cockpits and two Wright SR-120-E, delivered April 1932.
- Modified XB-907 after Martin returned it to U.S. Army for further operational trials, with larger wingspan and two Wright R-1820-19.
- Designation of the prototype when purchased by the United States Army Air Corps, Modified XB-907A with enclosed cockpits and turret and single strut landing gear.
- Martin Model 139, 139A and 139B
Army Air Corps versions, 165 built.
- Model 139A, test and production version of the XB-10 with crew reduced to three members, and two 675 hp/503 kW R-1820-25, 14 built, some flown temporarily as float planes.
- The YB-10A was different from a YB-10 only in its engines. It used Wright R-1820-31 turbo-supercharged radials, allowing it to attain speeds of 236 mph (380 km/h). This made it the fastest aircraft of the B-10 series. Despite this advantage, only one was built, as a test aircraft.
- According to one source, two additional aircraft ordered in 1936.
- Model 139, main production version with two 775 hp (578 kW) R-1820-33 engines, 105 built, delivered August 1936.
- According to one source this was, these were B-10Bs converted as target tugs. According to Martin's own archive, this was the designation of the YB-10 after testing, then used for airmail and Alaska missions, 13 of the 14 built were still in service in April 1940.
- One former NEIAF Model 139WH-3A model impressed in July 1942 and flown from Australia to the United States.
- Model 139B. With 250 or 500 gallons flotation chambers for safety on overwater flights, and two Pratt & Whitney R-1690-11 "Hornet" radial engines. These 775 hp (578 kW) engines gave similar performance to those on the B-10B (218 mph/351 km/h), seven built, five still in service in April 1940.
- The production version of the YB-12 with provision for a 365 gal (1,381 l) fuel tank in the bomb bay, giving the B-12A a combat range of 1,240 mi (1,995 km), 25 built, 23 still in service in April 1940.
- Re-engined version of the YB-10 powered by two 700 hp (522 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1860-17 Hornet B radial engines. Ten were on order but cancelled before production started, not built.
- To test the new 900 hp Pratt & Whitney YR-1830-9 "Twin Wasp" radial engines, one built which was converted back to YB-12 after testing.
- Proposed attack variant of the YB-10 with two 750 hp (559 kW) R-1820-25 engines, was never built. The contract fell to the A-14 Shrike.
- With two 750 hp Wright R-1820-17, proposed high-speed observation role, one B-10 was beginning to be converted in 1934 and another in 1935 but both were stopped before being completed and were converted back into B-10s.
- Model 139W
The export versions, 100 built (182 including the 166, see below).
- Model 139WA
- Martin demonstrator for Argentina
- Model 139WAA
- Export version for Argentine Army, 26 built, delivered April 1938.
- Model 139WAN
- Export version for the Argentine Navy, 12 built, delivered November 1937.
- Model 139WC and WC-2
- Export version for China, six and three built, delivered in February and August 1937.
- Model 139WH
- Export version for the Netherlands, used in the Netherlands East Indies. Produced in block series WH(-1) (13 built, delivered February 1937) and WH-2 (26 built, delivered March 1938).
- Model 139WR
- Single demonstrator to the Soviet Union.
- Model 139WSM and WSM-2
- Export version for Siam, three and three built, delivered in March and April 1937.
- Model 139WSP
- Proposed licence built version to be built by CASA of Spain, production blocked by U.S. State Department.
- Model 139WT
- Export version for Turkey, 20 built, delivered September 1937.
- Model 166
Final version, a.k.a. 139WH-3 and 139WH-3A, 82 built.
- Export version for the Netherlands, used in the Netherlands East Indies. Redesigned wings, nose and single 'glass house' canopy, bomb shackles between engines and fuselage, and better engines. The WH-3 had two 900 hp (671 kW) R-1820-G5 (40 built, delivered September 1938), the WH-3A had two 1,000 hp (671 kW) R-1820-G-105A (42 built, delivered March 1940). With the bomb shackles the bomb load could be doubled for a shorter range. A total of 121 of all types were built for the Dutch.
- Army Aviation Service received 27 Model 139W/WAA aircraft.
- Argentine Navy - The Argentine Naval Aviation received 13 Model 139WAN aircraft.
- Royal Thai Air Force received six Model 139W aircraft in April 1937 and used them during the French-Thai War of 1940-41, and during the 1942 invasion of Burma. It was given a further nine ex-Dutch aircraft by the Japanese in 1942. They remained in service until 1949.
- Turkish Air Force received 20 Model 139W aircraft in September 1937.
- Soviet Air Force bought one aircraft for evaluation.
- The only surviving complete B-10 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The aircraft is painted as a B-10 used in the 1934 Alaskan Flight. It was an export version sold to Argentina in 1938. The aircraft survived as a ground crew trainer, and was still being used by the Argentine Air Force for training its ground crews as late as the 1960s. The Air Force Museum conducted an exhaustive search for any surviving B-10 remains, and eventually learned of the aircraft. In 1970, the incomplete airframe was donated by the Government of Argentina to the U.S. Government in a formal ceremony attended by the U.S. ambassador. The aircraft was restored by the 96th Maintenance Squadron (Mobile), Air Force Reserve, at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, in 1973–1976, and placed on display in 1976.
- Various parts of crashed B-10s, such as turrets and wings, were retrieved from the jungle of Borneo and are now on display in the Militaire Luchtvaart Museum (Military Aviation Museum) at Soesterberg, the Netherlands.
Specifications B-10B & model 166
Data from United States Military Aircraft Since 1909General characteristics
- Crew: four: pilot, co-pilot/radio operator, bombardier/gunner, gunner
- Length: 44 ft 9 in & same (13.6 m)
- Wingspan: 70 ft 6 in & same (21.5 m)
- Height: 15 ft 5 in & 11 ft 5 in (4.7 m & 3.5 m)
- Wing area: 678 ft² & 683 ft² (63 m² & 64 m²)
- Empty weight: 9,681 lb & 10,322 lb (4.391 kg & 4,682 kg)
- Loaded weight: 14,700 lb & 15,624 lb (6,680 kg & 7,085 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 16,400 lb (7,440 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-1820-33 (G-102) "Cyclone" radials, 775 hp & 1,000 hp (578 kW & 746 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 213 mph & 241 mph (185 kn, 343 km/h & 210 kn, 388 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 193 mph & 186 mph (168 kn, 311 km/h & 161 kn, 299 km/h)
- Range: 1,240 mi & 1,740 mi (1,078 nmi, 1,996 km & 1,510 nmi, 2,800 km)
- Service ceiling: 24,200 ft & 28,215 ft (7,380 m & 8,600 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,380 ft/min & 1,939 ft/min (420 m/min & 591 m/min)
- Wing loading: 21.7 lb/ft² & 22.9 lb/ft² (106 kg/m² & 111 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.105 hp/lb & 0.128 hp/lb (0.173 W/kg & 0.211 W/kg)</ul>Armament
- Guns: 3 × .30 in (7.62 mm) Browning machine guns in nose, dorsal and belly positions
- Bombs: 2,260 lb & 4,520 lb (1,030 kg & 2,060 kg)
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- List of bomber aircraft
- List of military aircraft of the United States
- List of aircraft of World War II
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- The short film 15 AF HERITAGE - HIGH STRATEGY - BOMBER AND TANKERS TEAM (1980) is available for free download at the Internet Archive