Douglas A/B-26 Invader

JATO - Jet Assisted Take-Off

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Above, 63-5634 ( ex A-26C 44-35634 ) which was later Scrapped

B-26K 63-5634 was the first modified Counter Invader, modified from RB-26C 44-35634.


  • JATO is an acronym for Jet-fuel Assisted Take Off. It is a system for helping overloaded aircraft into the air by providing additional thrust in the form of small rockets.
  • The term is used interchangeably with the (more specific) term RATO, for Rocket-Assisted Take Off (or in RAF parlance RATOG for Rocket-Assisted Take Off Gear).

63-5634 had been converted into a B-26B in August of 1961 and employed as a squadron "hack". This aircraft was transferred to On Mark in October of 1962. When the work was completed, the aircraft was redesignated YB-26K. Contrary to some published sources, it was not assigned the new serial number 63-5634 -- the number 35634 painted on the aircraft were simply the last 5 digits of its original serial number. It flew for the first time on January 28, 1963. It was delivered to the 1st Air Commando Wing at Hurlburt for evaluation in June of 1963.

In 1942, "5634" took off using liquid JATO, or jet-assisted takeoff, units.

Designed with the help of the Air Corps Jet Propulsion Research Project, JPL's predecessor, the units helped shorten takeoff distance from 707.1 meters (2,320 feet) to 478.6 meters (1,570 feet) and cut takeoff time from 25.1 seconds to 16.8 seconds.