Convair B-58 Hustler
In March 1949 the US Air Force's Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) invited proposals for a supersonic bomber, and after submissions had been reduced to two, from Boeing and Consolidated-Vultee's Fort Worth Division, the latter was selected in August 1952 to develop its Convair Model 4 designed to the hardware stage under contract MX-1964. On 10 December 1952 the designation B-58 was allocated and late in that year Convair received a contract for 18 aircraft, to be powered by a new J79 engine for which General Electric received a development contract at the same time. The performance requirement for the new aircraft demanded considerable advances in aerodynamics, structures and materials. The resulting design, one of the first to incorporate the NACA/ Whitcomb-developed area-rule concept, was a delta-winged aircraft with four engines in underslung pods, a slim fuselage and, a under-fuselage pod. The thin fuselage provided some engineering issues early on as it prevented internal carriage of bombs and the required amount of fuel to power the four turbojet engines and allow for any reasonable operating radius to be achieved. As a result, a large external droppable two-component 18.90m long pod was affixed to the underside of the fuselage. This pod contained extra fuel and a nuclear weapon along with other mission-specific specialized gear. The three-man crew, in individual tandem cockpits, were provided with jettisonable escape capsules.
Distinctive features of the B-58 included sophisticated inertial guidance navigation and bombing systems. Extensive use of heat-resistant honeycomb sandwich skin panels were integrated into the construction of the wings and fuselage for high altitude-high velocity flight.
In June 1954 the 18-aircraft order was reduced to two XB-58 prototypes and 11 YB-58A pre-production examples, together with 31 pods. The first of these was rolled out at Fort Worth on 31 August 1956, making its first flight on 11 November 1956 piloted by B. A. Erikson. On 30 December, still without a pod, the XB-58 became the first bomber to exceed Mach 1.
A further 17 YB-58As were ordered on 14 February 1958, together with 35 MB-1 bomb pods, to bring to 30 the number of aircraft available for the manufacturer's test programme and ARDC service trials with the 6592nd Test Squadron and the 3958th Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron at Carswell AFB.
The United States Air Force ordered between September 1958 and 1960 86 total Hustlers, which were operational in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) between 1960 and 1970.
The 86 production B-58A Hustlers were supplemented by 10 YB-58As which were brought up to production standard to equip the 43rd Bomb Wing, initially at Carswell but later assigned to Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, and the 305th Bomb Wing at Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana. The first was handed over to the 65th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Carswell on 1 December 1959 and the 43rd Bomb Wing, activated as the first B-58 unit on 15 March 1960, became operational on 1 August 1960. The 116th and last B-58A was delivered on 26 October 1962 and the type was withdrawn from Strategic Air Command service on 31 January 1970.
B-58s as a whole set 19 world speed and altitude records and won five different aviation trophies during their operational run - a vast engineering achievement realized. Despite these performance successes, the B-58 still suffered from limitations in operating range, payload capacity and overall series growth potential.
With such outstanding performance it was clear that the B-58A had record-breaking potential. On 12 January 1961 Major Henry Deutschendorf and his crew secured the 2000km closed-circuit record at 1708.8km/h and on 14 January Major Harold E. Confer's aircraft raised the 1000km record to 2067.57km/h. On 10 May Major Elmer Murphy won the trophy presented by Louis Bleriot in 1930 for the first pilot to exceed 2000km/h for a continuous period of 30 minutes. Sixteen days later Major William Payne and his crew flew from Carswell to Paris setting, en route, record times of 3 hours 39 minutes 49 seconds from Washington and 3 hours 19 minutes 51 seconds from New York. The Hustler crashed at the Paris Air Show on 3 June with the loss of the crew. Other flights included a supersonic endurance record of 8 hours 35 minutes from Haneda, Tokyo to London, on 16 October 1963.
Convair built 86 standard B-58A bombers as well as 11 development aircraft later brought up to production standard and 17 YB-58A pre-production aircraft which were modified as RB-58A reconnaissance machines, Eight aircraft were con-verted into TB-58A trainers with a tandem pair of pilot stations. The regular bomber seated pilot, nav/bomb-aimer and defensive systems operator in tandem cockpits containing special escape capsules which, in emergency, could close around the occupant, seat and controls and be ejected as a sealed package.
In 1970 the 43rd and its partner, the 305th Wing at Grissom AFB, were disbanded because of high operating cost. The last B-58 would be officially retired in January 1970.
Convair B-58A Hustler
Engines: 4 x General Electric J79-GE-5A, -5B or -5C turbojet, 69.3kN / 15,600lbs thrust with reheat capability
Length: 96 ft. 10 in (29.49m)
Wingspan: 56 ft 10 in (17.32m)
Wing area: 143.25 sq.m / 1541.93 sq ft
Height: 31 ft 5 in (9.60m)
Empty Weight: 55,561lbs (25,202kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight: 163,000 lb (73,936kg)
Weight after inflight-refuelling: 80237 kg (176,890 lb)
Maximum Speed: 1,321mph (2,126kmh / 1,148kts / Mach 2.1)
Cruising speed: 610 mph.
Maximum Range: 4,400 miles without aerial refueling
Service Ceiling: 62,999ft (19,202m; 11.9miles)
Armament: 1 x 20mm cannon in tail
1 x Under-fuselage pod carrying up to 19,450lb ordnance