Manufactured by Douglas
The B-18 was designed to meet a 1934 U.S. Army Air Corps requirement for a bomber to replace the Martin B-10. Based upon Douglas’ proven DC-2 and DC-3 commercial airliners, the B-18 was one of three aircraft in contention for the Air Corps contract. The DB-1, as the B-18 was initially designated, won the competition and deliveries began in February 1937.
Equipping both bomber and reconnaissance squadrons, the B-18 was joined in May 1938 by an improved model, the B-18A. By 1940, the Bolo was the most numerous bomber in Air Corps service, but its days as a first-line aircraft were ending. Although being replaced by newer models in the U.S. based groups, the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 found the Bolo as still the most common bomber in use overseas. Virtually wiped out on the ground, the B-18s played no significant role in the Pacific theater of operations.
The Bolo was employed as an anti-submarine patrol plane on the east coast of the U.S. and in the Caribbean area, where it pioneered the use of Airborne Surface Vessel detection radar. The B-18s patrolled the Panama Canal Zone and served in the defense of Alaska against Japanese invasion forces.
Withdrawn from use as a bomber, the majority of B-18s served as cargo, transport or training aircraft, many as bombardier trainers. A few Bolos were used in the development of U.S. Army paratroop training programs.
Declared surplus in 1944, most Bolos were available inexpensively for use as cargo planes or crop sprayers, with some still working into the late 1960s.
Douglas built 133 B-18 and 217 B-18A aircraft for the Air Corps. Only five are preserved in museums today.
Our B-18A Bolo
Click here for a detailed history of the museum’s B-18. Thanks to museum volunteer Dave Tomecek for an outstanding job in researching and writing this article.
- Role/Category: Bomber
- Wingspan: 89 feet, 6 inches
- Length: 57 feet, 10 inches
- Height: 15 feet, 2 inches
- Weight: 24,000 lbs. design, 27,000 lbs. maximum
- Powerplant: Two 1,000 hp Wright R-1820-53 Cyclone nine-cylinder radial piston engines
- Speed: maximum: 215 mph, normal cruise: 167 mph
- Ceiling: 23,900 feet
- Crew: seven: pilot, co-pilot, radio operator, bombardier/navigator, and three gunners
- Armament: three .30 caliber M-2 machine guns located in nose, retractable dorsal, and ventral positions
- Payload: 2,400 lbs. design, 4,400 lbs. maximum