US Air Force involvement in the Korean War highlighted an urgent need for a high performance day/night tactical bomber. To speed the availability of such an aircraft it was planned to procure a land-based version of the A3D Skywarrior then being developed for the US Navy. To this end Douglas was given a contract for five pre-production Douglas RB-66A all-weather/night photo-reconnaissance aircraft, the first of which was flown on 28 June 1954 at the Long Beach plant. Although retaining the basic overall configuration of the A3D Skywarrior, the USAF's RB-66A Destroyer dispensed with the arrester gear, strengthened landing gear and wing-folding of the naval version; it introduced aerodynamic changes in the wing design, revised accommodation for the three-man crew who were provided with ejection seats, and detail changes in equipment, including a multiple-camera installation and the provision of bombing and navigation radar. Power for this initial version was provided by two 4341kg thrust Allison YJ71-A-9 turbojets. Successful testing of the RB-66As led to a contract for the first production version, the RB-66B powered by 4627kg thrust Allison J71-A-11s or J71-A-13s. The first of 145 RB-66Bs was flown in March 1955 and deliveries to the USAF began on 1 February 1956. The new Douglas factory at Torrance (Plant B-6) in May 1954 was in volume production with both the AD-5 and 6 Skyraider and the F4D-1 Skyray, the latter with the J57 turbojet with afterburner. This leaves the El Segundo division almost clear to turn out twin-jet Skywarriors. The U.S.A.F. version of this machine (B-66) is made at Long Beach, and the main factory, at Santa Monica, makes Globemasters and DC-7s. In production in 1955 as the B-66B bomber and RB-66A reconnaissance-bomber.
Production versions included also the B-66B bomber (72 built), which had the same powerplant as the RB-66B and could carry up to 6804kg of bombs in place of reconnaissance equipment. The RB-66C (36 built), was an electronic reconnaissance and ECM-aircraft with J71-A-11 or J71-A-13 turbojets and a crew of seven including five specialist radar operators, four of them accommodated in what had initially been the bomb bay. The WB-66D (36 built) was a combat-area weather reconnaissance aircraft with J71-A-13 engines and a crew of five (two plus equipment in the bomb bay).
ECM versions of the B-66/RB-66 proved of great value during operations in Vietnam, locating, classifying and jamming enemy radars, but withdrawal of US forces from Southeast Asia brought retirement of these aircraft.
Douglas WB-66D Destroyer
Variation: Northrop X-21
Engines: 2x Allison J71-A-9 turbojets, 10,000 lb (approx) thrust.
Loaded weight: about 75,000 lb.
Max. speed: over 650 m.p.h.
Ceiling: over 45,000 ft.
Range: over 1,500 miles
Armament: 2 x 20 mm. tail guns.
Engines: 2 x 4627kg thrust Allison J71-A-11s or J71-A-13s
Max take-off weight: 37648 kg / 83000 lb
Empty weight: 19720 kg / 43475 lb
Wingspan: 22.1 m / 72 ft 6 in
Length: 22.9 m / 75 ft 2 in
Height: 7.19 m / 23 ft 7 in
Wing area: 72.46 sq.m / 779.95 sq ft
Max. speed: 1015 km/h / 631 mph
Cruise speed: 845 km/h / 525 mph
Ceiling: 11855 m / 38900 ft
Range: 3000 km / 1864 miles
Armament: 2 x 20mm M-24A-1 cannon.
Engines: 2 x 4627kg thrust Allison J71-A-11 or J71-A-13 turbojets