The Consolidated B-24 Liberator is an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California.
At its inception, the B-24 was a modern design featuring a highly efficient shoulder-mounted, high aspect ratio Davis wing. The wing gave the Liberator a high cruise speed, long range and the ability to carry a heavy bomb load.
In comparison with its contemporaries, the B-24 was relatively difficult to fly and had poor low speed performance; it also had a lower ceiling and was less robust than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. General Staff favored the B-24 and procured it in huge numbers for a wide variety of roles. At approximately 18,500 units - including over 4,600 manufactured by Ford Motor Company - it holds records as the world's most produced bomber, heavy bomber, multi-engine aircraft, and American military aircraft in history.
The B-24 was used extensively in World War II. It served in every branch of the American armed forces as well as several Allied air forces and navies. It saw use in every theater of operations. Along with the B-17, the B-24 was the mainstay of the U.S. strategic bombing campaign in the Western European theater. Due to its range, it proved useful in bombing operations in the Pacific, including the bombing of Japan. Long range anti-submarine Liberators played an instrumental role in closing the Mid-Atlantic gap in the Battle of the Atlantic.
By the end of World War II, the technological breakthroughs of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and other modern types had surpassed the bombers that served from the start of the war. The B-24 was rapidly phased out of U.S. service, although the PB4Y-2 Privateer maritime patrol derivative carried on in service with the U.S. Navy in the Korean War.
B-24s were also used by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps for ASW, anti-ship patrol, and photographic reconnaissance in the Pacific Theater, and by the U.S. Coast Guard for patrol and SAR. Naval B-24s were redesignated PB4Y-1, meaning the fourth patrol bomber design built by Consolidated Aircraft. Navy PB4Y-1s assigned to Atlantic ASW and all Coast Guard PB4Y-1s had the ventral turret replaced by a retractable radome. Also, most naval aircraft had an Erco ball turret installed in the nose position, replacing the glass nose and other styles of turret.