October 1999 (Blackburn Buccaneer) Home December 1999 (Vought F7U Cutlass)

Convair B-58 Hustler

"Faster Than a Speeding Bullet" by Mike Machat

The B-58 Hustler was the fastest USAF bomber to enter service. The two faster USAF bombers, the B-1A and the XB-70, were canceled and were used for research. The B-58 took advantage of the area rule to create a low-drag fuselage. It was powered by four General Electric J57-GE-5A/B/C single-shaft turbojets, which had variable position inlet spikes like the engines on the SR-71. The position of the spikes were automatically adjusted to prevent compressor stall. The B-58 nearly always carried its dorsal pod. The outer pod was all fuel; in a real mission it would drop this before approaching the target. In the inner pod was fuel and either nuclear weapons, reconnaissance platforms, passenger compartments, gun bays, or research facilities.
To survive ejection at Mach 2, the crew ejected in seperate ejection pods (see illustration). The pods each had a 41-ft parachute, and they would float on water. Each pod contained a radio, a rifle, a change of clothes, a weeks's worth of food and water, and other survival gear. When the ejection handel was pulled, the top of the pod slammed down over the crew's heads and shot out of the aircraft. Though this limited the height of potential crew, "If you didn't quite fit the capsule during qualification, you certainly would after the doors slammed shut."
The rear landing gear wheels rotated so that one of the wheels lay ahead of the other when they were stowed. Since the main landing gear wheels where 22 inches in diameter, and the wing was only 18 inches thick, bumps were required on the wing so the wheels would fit. The bumps were streamlined so to reduce drag.

In 1948, the USAF was interested in a supersonic nuclear bomber. In 1949, Convair proposed to built a supersonic bomber. Convair decided to built a jet bomber, as opposed to turboprop, bomber. Their design they produced was a delta-winged bomber with a jet engine in the tail, one under each wing, and one in a dropable payload pod which was called a parasite. The pod went from the nose to the tail, so two nose gears were required: one in the fuselage, and one in the pod. The one in the pod dropped off after takeoff. However, the nose gear dropping off and landing in some city was a problem, so the pod was shortened and one nose gear was used.
During development, it was apparent that the bomber would not have the planned 4800-7250 km (3000-4500 mile) range, so carrying the whole bomber on a B-36, then having it be dropped, accelerate to Mach 1.6, drop its bombs, pod and wing engines, and return at a high speed with only the tail engine to the B-36. After several redesigns, a area-ruled fuselage with four jets in pods and a dorsal pod with a bomb was decided on, in September 1953. Boeing was working on its B-59, which would be the competition for the B-58. On 9 October 1952 both companies submitted their designs and the USAF chose the B-58, for it seemed to be a more capable aircraft. In August 1954 the engines were changed from having two to a pod to having each one in a seperate pod and the wingtip fuel tanks were removed. On 31 August 1956 the first YB-58 was rolled out. At that time it was the most advanced aircraft in the world. Taxi test began on 29 October. The first flight was on November 11, 1956. It took off from Convair's Fort Worth plant and came back in and landed. The elapsed time for the fligt was 38 minutes. The USAF ordered seven more prototypes, to make a total of 20. The first production B-58 was delivered on 1 December 1959, to SAC's Caswell AFB. It was the first supersonic strategic bomber in the world. On 15 March, 1960, the 43rb Bomb Wing at Caswell was the first wing with B-58s. The second B-58 bomb wing was the 305th, based at Bunker Hill (now Grissom) AFB in Indiana and the 43rd was moved to Little Rock AFB. However, in the late 1960s, the DoD decided to dismantle all the B-58s and replace them with ICBMs. That decision came on 29 October 1969 and it was effective 31 January 1970.

There was no other good aircraft to train pilots for the B-58 on, all other delta wings being too small for a realistic flight, so the USAF requested a trainer version of the B-58. Eight TB-58As were built from salvaging the best parts from the YB-58s. The first one made its first flight on 10 May 1960. The TB-58A replaced the navigator/bombardier with the instructor. The instructor's cockpit was enlarged and fitted with throttles, a control stick, duplicate brakes, and a nose wheel steering switch.

B-58A Hustler Specifications
YB-58A flying chase for XB-70
TypeHigh-speed high-altitude long-range strategic bomber
PowerplantFour GE J-79s, producing 46.7 kN (10500 lb) thrust, or 71.2 kN (16000 lb) at full afterburner.
AccommodationPilot, navigator/bombardier, and defense systems operator in tandem
ArmamentNuclear weapons in the ventral weapons pod and on wing hardpoints; a M61 cannon in the tail
Cruise speed982 km/h (530kt)
Combat radius2820km (1520nm)
Range8095km (4366nm) without midair refueling
Rate of Climb5440mpm (17830fpm)
Combat Ceiling19760m (64800 ft)
Zoom Climb Altitude26028m (85360 ft)
G Limit+3, -2
Empty25224kg (55560 lb)
MTOW74000kg (163000 lb)
Maximum Weight with Aerial Refueling80360kg (177000 lb)
Wingspan17.3m (56ft 10in)
Length29.5m (96ft 9in)
Height9.56m (31ft 5in)
Wing area152m² (1542sq ft)