Convair B-58 Hustler

Overview

The Convair B-58 ‘Hustler’ was the US Air Force’s first operational supersonic bomber, making its first flight on 11th November 1956. It was designed for Strategic Air Command (SAC), to carry and deploy nuclear ordnance right into the enemy’s heartland. In order to achieve supersonic speed, it married afterburner turbojet engines with a tailless delta wing with a leading-edge sweep of 60 degrees. The slim fuselage design precluded the internal carriage of ordnance, so it was carried in an external droppable pod, which could also hold extra fuel.

The crew of three consisted of a pilot, a navigator-bombardier, and a defensive systems operator, who were housed in separate tandem cockpits. Each cockpit formed an individual ejection capsule that enabled ejection to be initiated at altitudes of up to 21,000m (70,000ft) and at speeds of Mach 2 (2,450kmh or 1,320mph), something which individual ejection seats of the era could not achieve.

The Hustler entered service with Strategic Air Command in 1960, but it was never totally successful in its role. Its high speed resulted in enormous fuel consumption, and it required in-flight re-fuelling on its way out to its target and on its way back. It was also a difficult aircraft to fly, and suffered an accident rate of 22.4%. The B-58 was succeeded in SAC by the General Dynamics F-111B in 1970, after only ten years of service.

The high speeds achieved by the Hustler did gain it some favourable accolades, and it achieved a supersonic endurance record of 8 hours 35 minutes from Tokyo to London on 16th October 1963, among other performance records.

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