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Ballistics Control Panel C-1, K-Series Bombing Navigational Computer, B-36 Peacemaker


Ballistics Control Panel C-1, K-Series Bombing Navigational Computer, B-36 Peacemaker


This is an authentic Cold War-era Ballistics Control Panel Type C-1 as used at the Radar-Bombardier's Station in the massive Boeing B-36 Peacemaker Strategic Bomber of the US Air Force. It is believed to be a component of the versions of the Sperry K-Series Bombing Navigational Computer (to be confirmed).  See the page in the photo gallery from the B-36 Flight Manual indicating the location of this panel at the Radar-Bombardier's station in the nose of the B-36.

The panel has 5 knobs, 5 display windows, and one push button switch.  The 4 large outer knobs allow the operator to adjust the Time-of-Fall (in seconds) of the ordnance, Trail (i.e., desired distance of aircraft from the point of impact at the time of impact, in feet), North/South Offset and East/West Offset (in 1000's of feet), all with corresponding windows which display the numerical or directional parameter associated with that knob. The center knob changes the operation of the controller from Line-of-Sight to SYN (assumed Synchronous), and a spring-action push button is labeled "Press for FW'D Sighting". In the lower center is a display showing altitude of the aircraft.

The Cycling Repair Record label in the upper right shows a service date of August 1955 at depot ACSK (unidentified by AeroAntique). It was manufactured by AC Spark Plug Division of General Motors, most likely under license from Sperry.

The photos don't do justice to the actual size of this panel, which measures 12 inches high, 8.5 inches wide, and 8 inches deep and weighs over 20 lbs.  It is in terrific condition for its age. All knobs rotate and turn the indicator dials in the corresponding windows.

According to the February 1957 edition of Radio & Television News:

The K-System automatically measures distance and time to target, computes ballistics of bomb's curve for existing altitude, temperature and crosswinds, permits final hairline adjustment via radar or optical sight, triggers bomb away at proper instant, then helps the navigator to guide the shortest way home.

Originally designed, developed, and produced by Sperry Gyroscope, manufacture of this critical gear was rapidly dispersed through other plants of General Motors, National Cash Register, and IBM. Eastman Kodak, Western Electric, General Mills, Motorola, and Farrand were multiple prime or sub-system sources. Western Electric developed the radar. In all, about one million factory workers and technicians in 36 states, at 3050 companies large and small, have been directly engaged in this Air Force program to supply needed K-Systems.

More than 70,000 individual parts make up the various computers and other elements of a single K-System for an individual aircraft - about as many parts as a modern automobile with power steering and automatic transmission. Each system contains complex circuitry for hundreds of pre-tested vacuum tubes, over 50 motors, and about 100 relays, with many sealed amplifiers for quick unit replacement while in the air.

The original prototype cost of nearly a half-million dollars was reduced to less than half by manufacturing improvements in volume production. Nearly 900 major improvements for system efficiency through all production channels have been made in the last six years.

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