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Convair
B-58 Hustler "1956"

The B-58 set 19 world speed records, including coast-to-coast records, and the longest supersonic flight in history. In 1963, it flew from Tokyo to London (via Alaska), a distance of 8,028 miles (12,920 km), with 5 aerial refuelings in 8 hours, 35 minutes, 20.4 seconds, averaging 938 miles per hour (1,510 kilometres per hour). As of 2016, this record still stands.[52][53] The aircraft was serving in an operational unit, and had not been modified in any way besides being washed and waxed. One of the goals of the flight was to push the limit of its new honeycomb construction technique.

Convair B-58 Hustler "1956"

Role Supersonic strategic bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Convair
First flight 11 November 1956
Introduction 15 March 1960
Retired 31 January 1970
Status Retired
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 116
Developed into Convair Model 58-9

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Convair

Convair
B-58 Hustler "1956"

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Convair
B-58 Hustler "1956"

The Convair B-58 Hustler, designed and produced by American aircraft manufacturer Convair, was the first operational bomber capable of Mach 2 flight.[1]

The B-58 was developed during the 1950s for the United States Air Force (USAF) Strategic Air Command (SAC). To achieve the high speeds desired, Convair adapted the delta wing used by contemporary fighters such as the Convair F-102. The bomber was powered by four General Electric J79 engines in underwing pods. It had no bomb bay: it carried a single nuclear weapon plus fuel in a combination bomb/fuel pod underneath the fuselage. Later, four external hardpoints were added, enabling it to carry up to five weapons.

The B-58 entered service in March 1960, and flew for a decade with two SAC bomb wings: the 43rd Bombardment Wing and the 305th Bombardment Wing.[2] It was considered difficult to fly, imposing a high workload upon its three-man crews. Designed to replace the Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber, the B-58 became notorious for its sonic boom heard on the ground by the public as it passed overhead in supersonic flight.[

Design

 

The Convair B-58 Hustler was a high speed strategic bomber, capable of attaining routinely Mach 2 at altitude. It incorporated a large delta wing with a leading-edge sweep of 60° and was powered by an arrangement of four General Electric J79-GE-1 turbojet engines. Although its sizable wing generated relatively low wing loading, it proved to be surprisingly well suited for low-altitude, high-speed flight. To protect against the heat generated while cruising at Mach 2, the crew compartment, the wheel wells and electronics bay were pressurized and air conditioned. The B-58 was one of the first extensive applications of aluminum honeycomb panels, which bonded outer and inner aluminum skins to a honeycomb of aluminum or fiberglass.[20]

Various features of the B-58 were considered to be record-breaking, according to Gunston and Gilchrist.[21] The structure itself made up 13.8 per cent of the aircraft’s gross weight, an exceptionally low figure for the era, while the wing was considered to be extremely thin as well. Several key features of the engine, including the nacelle and the inlet, were unlike any existing aircraft, having been devised from guidance by aerodynamicists

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Convair B-58 Hustler (1956)

On 1 August 1960, the B-58 was declared operational, nine months after the delivery of the first aircraft to the Air Force.[18] One month later, a single B-58 participated in the annual SAC Combat Competition at Bergstrom; it proved itself to be superior to competing Boeing B-47 Stratojets and Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses, securing first place in both high-level and low-level radar bombing exercises.[18]

Crews were typically chosen from other strategic bomber squadrons. Due to some characteristics of delta-winged aircraft, new pilots used the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger as a conversion trainer, before moving to the TB-58A trainer.[39] The B-58 was found to be difficult to fly and its three-man crews were constantly busy, but its performance was exceptional. A lightly loaded Hustler would climb at nearly 46,000 ft/min (235 m/s).[40] In addition to its much smaller weapons load and more limited range than the B-52, the B-58 had been extremely expensive to acquire.

Specifications

Crew: Three

Length: 96 ft 10 in (29.51 m) 

Wingspan: 56 ft 9 in (17.30 m) 

Height: 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m) 
Empty weight: 55,560 lb (25,202 kg)
Powerplant: 4 × General Electric J79-GE-5A afterburning turbojet, 10,400 lbf (46 kN) thrust each dry, 15,000 lbf (67 kN) with afterburne

Maximum speed: 1,146 kn (1,319 mph, 2,122 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,000 m)

Maximum speed: Mach 2.0

Cruise speed: 530 kn (610 mph, 980 km/h)

Range: 4,100 nmi (4,700 mi, 7,600 km)

Combat range: 1,740 nmi (2,000 mi, 3,220 km)

Service ceiling: 63,400 ft (19,300 m)

Rate of climb: 17,400 ft/min (88 m/s) at gross weight

Armament
Guns: 1× 20 mm T171 cannon
Bombs: 1× Mark 39 or B53 or 4× B43 or B61 nuclear bombs; maximum weapons load was 19,450 lb (8,820 kg)

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Compounding these exorbitant costs, the B-58 had a high accident rate: 26 B-58 aircraft were lost in accidents, 22.4% of total production, more than half of the losses occurred during flight tests. The SAC senior leadership had been doubtful about the aircraft type from the beginning, although its crews eventually became enthusiastic about the aircraft.

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