Douglas B-66 / RB-66 Destroyer Tactical Light Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft
The Douglas B-66 / RB-66 Destroyer series was used in a variety of ways during its service tenure by the United States Air Force.
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Requiring a successor for their aging Douglas A-26 Invader fleet, the United States Air Force (USAF) contracted with the Douglas Aviation Company to secure a land-based light tactical bomber variant of the carrier-based A-3 Skywarrior in service with the United States Navy (USN). The aircraft was only slightly revised but incorporated certain features required by the USAF and was adopted as the B-66 "Destroyer". The aircraft was introduced during 1956 and 294 total examples were procured. The RB-66 became a notable photographic reconnaissance mark which was ordered into development at the same time as the B-66 bomber form.
Following the A-3 Skywarrior lines, the B-66 utilized a long, slab-sided fuselage with a stepped cockpit flightdeck. Wings were high-mounted along the fuselage roof and swept rearwards, each with an underslung engine nacelle. The tail incorporated a large-area vertical tail fin and mid-mounted horizontal planes as normal. The undercarriage was wheeled and wholly retractable. Power was served through 2 x Allison J71-A-11 turbojet engines developing 10,200lbs of thrust each. Standard armament became 2 x 20mm M24 series autocannons held in a remote-controlled, radar-assisted tail turret to counter following threats. An internal bomb bay allowed for up to 15,000lbs of conventional drop ordnance to be carried. The operating flight crew numbered three and all positions were given ejection seats - a feature lacking in the USN's A-3 line.
USAF authorities bypassed the prototype development phase and entered into preproduction thinking with a focus on the RB-66A photographic reconnaissance platform before the low-level tactical bomber product. However, the USAF requirements began to delay the program considerably and the once-simply conversion process was beginning to bog down into a laundry list of required changes by the branch. Despite the slow progress, five preproduction RB-66A models were eventually realized and a flyable form first took to the air on June 28th, 1954.