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B-18 Bolo - Castle Air Museum

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Douglas B-18 Bolo Light Bomber

B-18 Bolo bomber Castle Air Museum

The B-18 Bolo bomber design was based on the Douglas DC-2 commercial transport. The Bolo carried a crew of 6, had two 1,000 hp Wright Cyclone R-1820-45 radial engines, a maximum speed of 217 mph, service ceiling 25,850 feet, and a range of 1,200 miles. Armament included three .30-caliber machine guns, and a 2,000 pound bomb load. Used by the USAAF and RCAF (where it was known as the Digby), the B-18 Bolo was becoming obsolete by WWII.

Prior to U.S. involvement in World War II, the British and Americans began to share military secrets. In early 1941, with technical information on radar from the British, the Douglas B18 Bolo was involved in early U.S. testing of radar on aircraft, including air to air and submarine detection. With the promising results, over 100 B-18s (called B-18bs) had nose mounted radar installed which replaced the bombardier.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines on December 7 and 8 of 1941, many of the B-18s were destroyed. These two forward bases were being used to protect American interest in the Far East, and to act as a deterrent to the Japanese, replacement of the obsolete bombers in the Philippines with modern B-17 bombers had commenced before the attacks occurred. The remaining B-18s were not nearly as valuable as the B-17s and were quickly withdrawn and used for anti-submarine patrol, training and general transport.

Although it was one of the aircraft considered for use in the Doolittle Raid, ultimately it was rejected for the mission because it would have had difficulty taking off from an aircraft carrier due to lack of adequate power, and was unable to carry a large enough bomb load. The aircraft does have the distinction of being one of the first U.S. aircraft to sink a German submarine when in August of 1942, in Caribbean waters north of Colon, Panama, a B-18 Bolo reportedly sunk a German U-boat with depth charges.

Eventually replaced by the B-23 Dragon, the B-18 Bolo saw service until the late 1940s. The B-18 on display at Castle Air Museum, serial number 37-029, was used as a fire bomber (borate bomber) after World War II. According to Castle Air Museum literature, it is one of four B-18As on display at U.S. museums.