Douglas A/B-26 Invader

The 70,000,000 candlepower search light

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In the autumn of 1951, the Fifth Air Force Intruder wings also tested another one of their "wild ideas" -- this time U.S. Navy searchlights mounted on the wings of B-26 Intruders. In February 1951, while on a visit to the United States, Col. Zoller of the 3d Wing had first inspected an 80-million candlepower searchlight at Langley Air Force Base. Mounted on airships, the Navy had used the lights to seek out enemy submarines during World War II. It was a package unit that could be attached under a B-26's wing. In July, when the lights began to arrive in Korea, Colonel Nils 0. Ohman, who now commanded the 3rd Wing, ruled that only two aircraft in each bomber squadron would be equipped with searchlights. Each of the lights was as big as a napalm tank, and its drag promised to reduce the range of the plane that carried it. Colonel Ohman also thought that the lights would increase the vulnerability of the plane to ground fire. At the start both the 3d and 452d Wings had trouble getting the lights into action so that they could test them. Some snapped off the bracket which held them and others caught fire and had to be jettisoned. The first few searchlight missions flown by the 3d Group revealed the tactics that would be useful. The B-26 crew would first locate a convoy and mark its position with firebombs. Then the crew would switch on the searchlight -- which was limited to approximately fifty seconds burning at a time -- and prosecute low level attacks.


The searchlight had a brilliance of 70,000,000 candlepower (70 million) and had a range of 2 miles. It weighed 154 pounds ( about the size and weight of a naplam tank) and operated on 72 volts DC. The searchlight beam was directed by the navigator sitting beside the pilot, operating a joystick. It could be left on for not more than one minute and then needed 5 minutes of off time for cooling.