Aviation of World War II

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C-46 "Commando"

Military Transport Aircraft


C-46 Commando

The Curtiss C-46, which had great capabilities, was always in the shadow of the C-47, compared to which it was larger, heavier and more expensive. In wartime, these factors worked against him. He made a name for himself in the Far East, Pacific Ocean and after the war, taking part in battles in Korea and even in Vietnam.

The creation by Curtiss-Wright of the CW-20, which later became the C-46, was at that time its most expensive project. Work began in 1936 under the direction of designer George A. Page. A new generation of airliners was to replace the Curtiss Condor and other biplanes. Although the Douglas DC-3 had already been operated by American Airways and other customers, the CW-20 looked competitive as a larger commercial ship with a longer range. It was powered by two 1650 hp Pratt-Whitney R-2800-17 R-2800-17 "Double Wasp" radial engines. To ensure maximum internal volume, the CW-20 section consisted of two circular segments intersecting in a common line chords, which gave the erroneous impression of a "double-deck vessel".

Production began at Curtiss factories in Buffalo and New York. The first C-46 (41-5159) was delivered to the Air Force on July 12, 1942. Other orders followed. The Model C-46A (CW-20B), starting with the 26th production aircraft, had a cargo door, cargo floor and folding seats along the sides of the cockpit. 1,491 aircraft were built in Buffalo, St. Louis and Louisville, Kentucky. The US Air Force planned to use a second manufacturer, Higins Industries Incorporated from New Orleans, to produce 500 C-46A and 500 C-76 Caravan from Curtiss. The S-76 had a mostly wooden structure: this could come in handy in case of a shortage of strategic materials. When it became clear that there would be enough metal, this car did not go into production. The Higgins company managed to build only two S-46A aircraft, the first copy (43-43339) was delivered on October 1, 1944. Total built 3,181 aircraft.


  • C-46 Commando. Twin engined military transport aircraft, powered by two 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 radial piston engines.
  • C-46A Commando. Twin-engined military transport aircraft, powered by two 2,000 hp (1,419 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 radial piston engines, fitted with a large cargo door on the port side of the fuselage, equipped with strengthened cargo floor, a hydraulic winch and folding seats for up to 40 troops.
  • C-46B Commando. One C-46A was converted into a test aircraft to evaluate a stepped windscreen design, it was powered by two 2,100 hp (1,567 kW) H-2800-34W radial piston engines.
  • C-46D Commando. Twin-engined personnel, paratroop transport aircraft, fitted with an extra door on the port side; 1,610 built.
  • C-46E Commando. Twin-engined utility transport aircraft, equipped with a large cargo door on the port side of the fuselage, fitted with a stepped windscreen; 17 built.
  • C-46F Commando. Twin-engined cargo transport aircraft, equipped with cargo doors on both sides of the fuselage, fitted with square cut wingtips; 234 built.
  • C-46G Commando. This one-off aircraft was fitted with a stepped windscreen and square wingtips, one built.
  • R5C-1. Twin-engined military transport aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps. Similar to the C-46A Commando; 160 built.
Crew 4
Length, m 23.26
Height, m 6.62
Wing span, m 32.91
Wing area, m² 126.3
Weight, kg
Empty weight 13,608 (30.000 lbs)
Maximum takeoff weight 20,412 (45.000 lbs)
Power Plant
Engine 2 × PE Pratt Whitney R-2800-51
Takeoff power, hp 2 × 2000 (1491 kW)
Maximum speed, km/h at altitude 3000 m 435
Cruise speed, km/h at altitude 2700 m 378
Service range, km 2897
Service ceiling, m 6706
Max. payload, kg 6804 (15.000 pounds) or 40 troops
Photo Description

Drawing C-46A Commando

Two C-46А in flight. Pictured in the foreground "Commando" in "iron color".

Loading C-46D. In front cargo hatch segment was the passenger door, just in case, when there was no need to open all the cargo hatch.

C-46 in USSR on test flights at NII VVS, 1945.


  • "Encyclopedia of military engineering" /Aerospace Publising/
  • "American Warplanes of World War II" /under cor. David Donald/

Cockpit C-46F "Camba", modern photo - on average instrument panel is KLN-90. According to the testimony of instruments - left engine running.

by Rob Schleiffert, 1997

The same C-46F "Camba", running left engine.

by Rob Schleiffert, 1997

March 21, 2017.

"342/CK 319 347272 C-46A-60 CR Soviet Air Force USAAF s/n 43-47271; modified with R-2800-75 engines by the Louisville factory; in olive drab c/s with light grey undersides;
ferried from Fairbanks to Moscow via ALSIB 28apr45/15may45; underwent trials with the NII VVS in summer 1945;
used by the Soviet Aeronautical Commission inspecting aircraft and rocket factories and research institutions in Eastern Germany in 1946, undertook several flights to Berlin and Ribnitz-Damgarten mar46/apr46 (carried e.g. Ar 234 parts from Ribnitz-Damgarten to the Soviet Union);
possibly wfu 1946"