The Invader corresponds to a 1940 USAAF specification for a light bomber capable of both precision low-level strafing and medium-level bombing. In order to be able to defend itself without an escort fighter, the A-26 must be both well armed and fast. The aircraft was designed by the design team of Edward H. Heinemann. . It is based on the layout of the A-20 Havoc, its predecessor. The prototype XA-26 was flown on 10.07.1942
While only a prototype of the XA-26A fighter version was built, the bomber and attack versions were produced in large numbers at the Douglas Company’s plants in Long Beach, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The A-26B version had an enclosed nose, housing 6 or 8 fixed 12.7 mm machine guns, remote-controlled turrets on the dorsal and belly, each housing twol 12.7 mm MG. Well-armored and capable of carrying up to 1,814 kg of bombs, the A-26B, with a top speed of 571 km/h at an altitude of 4,570 m, was the fastest Allied bomber in World War II. A total of 1,355 examples of this version were built, including 1,150 at the Long Bcach plant (A-26B-1-DL to A-26B-66-DL series) and 205 at Tulsa (A-26B-5-DT to A-26B-25-DT series). A further 24 copies were built at the Long Beach plant, but were not delivered to the USAAF, some of which were later sold to other civilian customers. In 1948, the A-26B was renamed the B-26B; for this reason it is often confused with the Martin B-26 Marauder. The XA-26B prototype was also developed, armed with a fixed 75 mm cannon mounted in the nose of the fuselage. Some B-26B aircraft were converted into unarmed TB-26B training aircraft or unarmed VB-26B VIP transport aircraft.
A total of 1091 aircraft were built in the A-26C version with a glass nose for the bombardier. Of which 5 were built at the Long Beach plant (A-26C-1-DL and A-26C-2-DL series) and 1086 at the Tulsa plant (A-26C-16-DT to A-26B-55-DT series). A further 53 examples built at Tulsa were not delivered to the USAAF, some of which were later sold to other civilian or military customers. In 1948, the A-26C aircraft was renamed the B-26C. Some B-26C aircraft were converted to RB-26C reconnaissance aircraft, CB-26C transport aircraft, and TB-26C unarmed training aircraft.
At the end of World War II, prototype development versions were built:
– XA-26D- with an enclosed nose with 8 fixed 12.7 mm calibre nkm, further 6 12.7 mm calibre nkm were mounted in the wings. Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83 “Double Wasp” engines with 1544 kW (2100 hp) each. The order for 750 copies of the A-26D was cancelled after the war ended,
– XA-26E- similar to the XA-26D, but with a glass nose for the bombardier. The order for 2150 copies A-26E was cancelled after the war ended.
In the postwar period, a prototype XA-26F was built with a mixed powerplant consisting of two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83 engines and an additional General Electric J31 jet engine. The aircraft received new Hamilton Standard type four-blade propellers. The prototype reached a maximum speed of 700 km/h. However, the installation of the jet engine, which significantly reduced the range, did not find practical use.
In September 1944, aircraft entered combat operating from the United Kingdom. Later they also operated from airfields in France and Italy. Many combat missions against the Germans were carried out, although not all the shortcomings of the aircraft were removed. The pilots were delighted with its maneuverability and ease of flying. With time, the defects were removed, and the Invader pilots began to take pride in flying such a demanding and effective bomber/attack aircraft. In the ETO, the A-26 flew 11,567 combat sorties and dropped 18,054 tons of bombs. Bomber was also maneuverable enough to handle itself, even when intercepted by fighters. On February 19, 1945, Major Myron L. Durkee of the 386th Bomb Group scored a probable shoot-down of a jet fighter Me 262 Schwalbe. Invaders also had seven confirmed air combat victories to their credit. Also during the fights with Japan in the Pacific the aircraft showed its advantages. Developing speed at sea level not less than 600 km/h, A-26 were a powerful weapon against ships and suitable for attacking ground targets. They replaced the Douglas A-20 and North American B-25 Mitchell bombers in combat units. The A-26s served with the 341st and 319th Bomb Groups of the USAAF during the battles in Formosa, Okinawa, and Japan itself.