The B-36J had 2 additional tanks, 1 on the outer panel of each wing, allowing an extra fuel load of 2,770 gallons. It also had a much stronger landing gear, permitting a gross takeoff weight of 410,000 pounds. This had long been a SAC goal. The Air Force and Convair as early as 1952 discussed how to increase the takeoff weight of available B-36s without compromising safety USAF engineers arguing that the structural integrity of some of the aircraft's new components was unknown. Takeoff weight was raised to 370,000 pounds in June 1952. But still cautious, the Air Force's authorization covered only B-36s that already had somewhat stronger landing gears.
The prototype, designated YB-36J, first flew in July 1953. This flight was swiftly followed by the September flight of the first B 36J production model. The latter was immediately accepted by the Air Force.
SAC received its full contingent of B-36Js in less than a year.
The last 14 B-36Js entered the operational inventory as lightweight B-36J 111s. In contrast to other B-36 featherweights (modified after production), Convair made all necessary changes before completing the aircraft. This delayed delivery for a month (too short to disrupt SAC's plans) and saved more than $100,000.
SAC had no critical problems with the B-36Js. For that matter, the entire B-36 fleet showed improvement, largely because of Project SAMSAC. This program, initiated in 1953, required the cyclic reconditioning of all operational B-36s (215 as of September 1954) and constantly tied up 25 aircraft in depots. Yet, the intensive maintenance paid off for both the older B-36s and the latest and final B-36Js. In the same vein, the crew to aircraft ratio (too low for many years) began to improve as the number of combat ready crews grew steadily.
The Air Force accepted 28 B-36Js in fiscal year 1954- 2 in September 1953 and 2 in October, 3 each month from November 1953 through March 1954, none in April, 4 in May, and 5 in June. Five more B-36Js were accepted in FY 55- 4 in July 1954 and, 1 in August.
The Air Force received the last B-36J on 10 August and delivered it 4 days later to the 42d Heavy Bomb Wing at Loring AFB.
The B-36J cost half a million dollars less than the preceding B-36H airframe, $1,969,271; engines (installed), $639,651; propellers, $214,186; electronics, $77,691; ordnance, $32,036; armament, $707,379.
A total of 33 B-36Js were accepted, starting in 1953. Phaseout was completed in 1959.
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