YouTube - B-58
4x 15,600 lbs. ea.
96 ft. 10 in.
56 ft. 10 in.
1- 20 mm
The B-58, produced by Convair and called the Hustler, was designed as a supersonic replacement for U.S. Air Force aging bombers. Its first flight was on Nov. 11, 1958. It went supersonic for the first time on Dec. 30, 1958. It was deployed with the Strategic Air Command in 1960 to become the world's first operational supersonic bomber.
Great technological advances had to be made for the Convair design team to meet the exacting requirements to produce a supersonic bomber aircraft. It had to fly at twice the speed of sound, at high altitudes, and be able to deliver nuclear weapons accurately to their targets. The B-58 was designed to have as small a radar signature as possible.
For the first time the U.S. Air Force saw a bomber as an entire weapons system. It was the job of Convair to bring it all together. This new approach to weapons procurement meant that numerous new procedures needed to be initiated. It lead to development delays.
B-58 technical features included double redundant flight system hydraulics, titanium fasteners, movable cones fitted to engine intakes, advanced avionics including radar targeting, navigation, and electronics countermeasures. It was the first aircraft to have lightweight, heat-resistant stainless steel honeycomb sandwich skin panels in its wings and fuselage. It was the first bomber designed to have a weapons pod that would be jettisoned after use, and the first supersonic aircraft with engine pods mounted outboard on a thin delta wings which were swept rearward at a sixty degree angle.
The B-58 crew of three consisted of a pilot, navigator, and defensive systems operator. Seating was in tandem. Because ejection seats of the time would not protect those ejecting at supersonic speeds, each crew member had a separate ejection pod. The pods were capable of use at supersonic speeds at altitudes up to 70,000 feet.
It was possible for each B-58 crew member to activate air tight bulkheads within the cockpit. Each crew member area was individually pressurized and had its own oxygen system. Crew members could choose to eject separately, or stay with the aircraft while being protected in the pod until aircraft control was regained at a safer speed and altitude.
The pilot's pod held all the necessary equipment to control the aircraft. After ejection, the pods would be lowered by parachute all the way to the ground. The pods contained shock absorbers to help cushion landings. The pods also could float in the event of a water landing with flotation bags deployed.
The B-58 was at the leading edge of technology for its time. The flight crew had to devote their full attention to aircraft systems. Particular attention had to be paid to flight trim as fuel was consumed. Flight protocols during take off and landings had to be followed rigidly or an aircraft could be lost.
A centerline weapons pod was fitted to the B-58. Its narrow fuselage could not accommodate a bomb bay. Included in the weapons pod, in addition to bombs, was a fuel tank. Provisions were also available to carry a surface to air missile, or reconnaissance equipment. Long landing gear struts were necessary to raise the aircraft sufficiently from the ground to provide for weapons pod clearance. For short range missions, the weapons pod could be removed, and up to four bombs could be carried beneath the wings. This had a great effect on overall aircraft performance. Without a load, the aircraft had superior speed, an excellent climb rate, and good maneuverability. Hanging fuel and weapons below the fuselage and wings took away these advantages.
Although the B-58 had a slightly longer range than its predecessor, it required in-flight refueling to reach targets inside the Soviet Union, unless it was stationed at a forward air base and the target was within its range.
The B-58 set a number of speed records, flying for up to twenty hours at a time with in-flight refueling. The purpose of the record setting missions were two fold. In addition to highlighting its high speed performance, they were meant to show the Soviet Union that none of its strategic basis were out of the aircraft's range.
The Soviets countered the threat by building high flying, accurate, ground to air missiles. That necessitated the B-58 having to fly at low levels, beneath Soviet radar, resulting in increased fuel consumption and shorter range.
A total of 86 B-58 aircraft were deployed with the Strategic Air Command from 1960 to 1970. Some 116 of the aircraft were produced in all, including 30 prototype and test pre-production aircraft. Of the bombers produced, 26 were lost and thirty six crew members lost their lives.
Pictured above is the beautiful B-58 scratch built by Lynn McCauley and Butch Sickels. It is 1/9 scale and has a wingspan of 78", with a 127" length. Four O.S. ducted fans are used for power. All up weight is about 46 lbs. and total static engine thrust is 28 lbs.