Convair B-58 Hustler
American postwar aircraft
The general operating requirement, SAB-51, called for the replacement of the B-47
to be the first supersonic bomber. Research and
development studies began in the late 1940's, and both Boeing and Convair developed
conceptual designs. In 1952, the more revolutionary Convair design was chosen and
designated the B-58, with the first flight occurring November 11, 1956.59 The program was
not a competitive development, and Convair was given total development responsibility. As
a result of money and schedule problems, the number of aircraft produced was reduced from
244 to 116, with its initial deployment in 1960.
The B-58 represented a drastic change from the B-47
design, acquisition strategy, and deployment philosophy with SAB-51 being the first time
that Air Force requirements called for radical, technological advances. The design
specifications called for a Mach 2, high-altitude, medium-range nuclear bomber of minimum
size to keep a low RCS. Convair was the prime contractor under the "Weapon System
Management Concept" introduced with the B-58 and had responsibility for all
subcontractor performance. This was in marked contrast to prior programs in which the Air
Force was responsible for providing the prime contractor with "off-the-shelf"
technology subsystems. The deployment concept was also different from the B-47
since the B-58 was designed to rely on quality rather
than quantity. These radical changes in the Air Force's approach to bomber development
resulted in many problems.
The B-58 did not have a bomb bay but could carry one nuclear weapon externally with the
centerline fuel pod fitting over it. Four weapons, whether nuclear or conventional, could
be carried on external hard points if the fuel pod was eliminated, thus degrading the
aircraft's range further. With fewer aircraft deployed, a larger payload was needed to
deliver as many weapons as its predecessor, the B-47. But the amount of space available
for modifications was less than that for the B-47
. In an
era of improving SAM technology, ECM modifications have been continually needed to meet
the evolving threat, and space was not available for additional ECM.
The B-58, although the holder of numerous world speed records, was severely restricted
in its usefulness and lifetime. Designed for supersonic, high-altitude penetration, the
B-58 was limited in range, payload, and growth potential for the addition of advanced
radar and other electronic equipment.
Thus, replacements were the main mode of modification. For example, analog electronic
equipment with cooling problems was replaced by digital electronics. The B-58's planned
production run was reduced because of the high cost per unit, a small payload, a mission
profile different from its design concept, and, in the 1960's, a Secretary of Defense that
downplayed the role of the bomber. In addition, it was very expensive to operate, and huge
sums of money were needed for the Vietnam war.
The first B-58 was delivered in August 1960 and by 1964 deployment had reached about 90
aircraft. The B-58 had a Mach 2 dash capability and employed an external weapons pod. The
last B-58 was retired in January 1970, about three months after the first FB-111
was accepted by SAC.
Although the aircrews swore by the B-58, money and mission limitations led to it being
phased out of the inventory after only 10 years of service.
|Four General Electric J79-GE-1 turbojet engines
|56 ft 10 in
|1,542 sq. ft
|470 sq. m
|96 ft 9 in
|29 ft 11 in
|Max. takeoff weight
|72 575 kg
|19 248 m
|Mach 2 (1,483 mph)
|Range with ext. tank
|Single General Electric T-171E3 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon in
plus nuclear or conventional bombs in the underwing pod.
|Three (pilot, bombardier/navigator and defense systems
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