The delta-wing CONVAIR B-58 "Hustler" was the first operational supersonic-capable bomber of the United States Air Force (USAF). The product was designed for high-altitude flight at considerable speeds, popular qualities for early Cold War bombers intended to simply "outfly" enemy air defenses including interceptors and ground-based fire. Captured wartime German data concerning jets and high-speed flight influenced the B-58 program leading to a heavily streamlined, aerodynamically-sound fuselage with little protrusions - leaving the finalized B-58 form akin to an arrowhead.
A prototype B-58 made its first flight on November 11th, 1956 and flew supersonically for the first time on December 30th, 1956. Distinct features of the aircraft included a then-sophisticated inertial guidance navigation and bombing system and "wasp-waist" fuselage. Extensive use of heat-resistant honeycomb sandwich skin panels were integrated into the construction of the wings and fuselage for the necessary high altitude-high, high-speed flight. The thin fuselage did provided some engineering challenges early on as it prevented internal carriage of bombs and the required amount of fuel to feed the four turbojet engines (thus restricting operational ranges). As a result, a large external droppable, two-component pod was added under the fuselage and contained extra fuel and a nuclear weapon along with other mission-specific gear. Later versions were fitted with reconnaissance equipment in place of the armament to form the "RB-58A" mark. Crew accommodations for the B-58 Hustler consisted of a pilot, navigator / bombardier, and defense systems operator - all sitting in tandem within escape capsules.
The USAF contracted for 86 total Hustlers which were operational in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) between 1960 and 1970. B-58s, as a whole, went on to set some nineteen world speed and altitude records and won five different aviation trophies during their operational run - a vast engineering achievement realized. Despite these performance successes, the B-58 still suffered from limited operating ranges and a limited payload capacity which hampered series series growth potential.
There were a total of 116 B-58s built that broke down as 30 test and pre-production aircraft and 86 for official service. The last B-58 would be officially retired in January of 1970, about three months after the first General Dynamics FB-111 "Aardvark" swing-wing fighter-bomber (detailed elsewhere on this site) was accepted into frontline service by SAC. The simple fact remained that the B-58 Hustler came along when the high-altitude bomber concept had become a thing of the past and the aircraft was phased out of the USAF inventory after only 10 years of service. Nonetheless, the engineering accomplishments seen during development surely played a role in future bomber and turbojet concepts for decades to come.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 116 Units ] : CONVAIR - USA
- Ground Attack
96.75 ft (29.49 m)
56.82 ft (17.32 m)
31.50 ft (9.6 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the CONVAIR B-58A Hustler production model)
55,561 lb (25,202 kg)
163,001 lb (73,936 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the CONVAIR B-58A Hustler production model)
4 x General Electric J79-GE-3B afterburning turbojet engines developing 15,600 lb of thrust each.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the CONVAIR B-58A Hustler production model)
1,321 mph (2,126 kph; 1,148 kts)
62,999 feet (19,202 m; 11.93 miles)
5,124 miles (8,247 km; 4,453 nm)
17,400 ft/min (5,304 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the CONVAIR B-58A Hustler production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
1 x 20mm T171 (M61) Gatling-style internal automatic cannon.
1 x Under-fuselage pod carrying up to 19,450 lb of conventional ordnance (drop bombs), nuclear ordnance, or tactical reconnaissance equipment. Supported B43 and B61 series nuclear payloads as well.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the CONVAIR B-58A Hustler production model)
Model 4 - Convair Proposed Model Prototype
XB-58 - Prototype Designation of which only 2 were produced from an original 18 ordered.
YB-58A - Preproduction Model Designation of which 11 were produced.
B-58A - Production Model based on the YB-58A.
RB-58A - Reconnaissance Conversion Models of the latter-half of the YB-58A production; fitted with ventral reconnaissance pods.
TB-58A - Conversion Trainer Models of YB-58A of which 8 existed.
(Cockpit image represents the Convair B-58 Hustler production model)
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of a possible 100.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (1,321mph).
Graph average of 1050 miles-per-hour.
CONVAIR B-58A Hustler operational range when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
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