Douglas B-23 Dragon
U.S. Medium Bomber & Photo Reconnaissance

B-23.jpg (12366 bytes)  

The Ghost Squadron's B-23, now on static display in the CAF HQ main hangar.

Image source: The Confederate Air Force Ghost Squadron CD-ROM produced by Corel. Photos by Bill Crump.

In the early 1930s, Douglas was best known for its successful DC-2 twin engine airliner. So it was natural that when asked to bid on a new Army medium bomber, they based the design on the DC-2 with a deeper fuselage. The resulting B-18 Bolo proved a disappointment, however, and Douglas proposed a major redesign, using the stronger wings of the larger DC-3.

An order for 38 of the new design, the B-23, was placed in 1938 and the first one flew on 27 July, 1939. The B-23 had a top speed 66 mph faster than the B-18 and mounted a .50 caliber machine gun in a glazed tail gunner’s position, the first to be fitted in a U.S. bomber. The plane was also designed for the photographic reconnaissance role and an aerial camera could be mounted in the nose.

Despite its size, the B-23 had controls for only one pilot, the other crew members being the bombardier (then called bomb-aimer), navigator, radio operator, camera operator and gunner. Various crew members served as gunners for the three .30 caliber machine guns, when needed.

Unfortunately for the B-23, by 1941 the Boeing B-17 had demonstrated its superior performance as a bomber, and no more of the Douglas design were built. Some B-23s saw limited service on coastal patrols, but many were converted for use as transports and glider towing or otherwise used in training as UC-67s.

After the war, many B-23s were modified as corporate aircraft, some carrying as many as twelve passengers. Others served as research planes, taking air samples and performing atmospheric tests.


Crew of Five or Six

Two Wright R-2600-3 Engines
Twin-row 14 cylinder Air-cooled Radials
1,600 hp @ 2,400 rpm

Three .30 caliber Machine Guns
One .50 caliber Machine Gun
Up to 2,000 lbs of Bombs

Max. Speed 282 mph @ 12,000 feet
Cruise Speed 210 mph

Climb to 10,000 ft in 6.7 minutes
Service Ceiling 31,600 ft

Length 58' 5"
Height 18' 6"
Wing Span 92'

Max. Weight 32,400 lbs
Empty Weight 19,089 lbs

Normal Range 1,400 miles
Max. Range 2,750 miles


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All material not specifically credited is Copyright by Randy Wilson.