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Douglas B-66 / RB-66 Destroyer

United States (1956)
Picture of 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.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Douglas B-66 / RB-66 Destroyer Tactical Light Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 6/18/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

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.

Production of A-models ended with the fifth airframe received. This paved the way for the RB-66B variant of which 149 were produced. These were based on the RB-66A but were heavier and installed the Allison J71-A-13 series turbojet engines instead. This aircraft first flew in early 1955.

The B-66 light tactical bomber form was eventually evolved along its own set of requirements, ultimately yielding the B-66B production model of which 72 were obtained by the USAF. The USAF originally envisioned a fleet of 141 of the type but the numbers never worked out in the branch's favor. The B-model eventually formed the basis for the RB-66C, an Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) model which added specialized mission equipment and an additional four crewmembers operating in a new work area where the internal bomb bay once resided. This mark totaled 36 examples and were easily differentiated by their wingtip pods. EB-66C models were RB-66Cs with modernized ECM equipment while the EB-66E was a highly specialized ECM version of the RB-66B. The WB-66D was a special weather-minded reconnaissance platform with a crew of five. 36 of this mark were produced. The WB-66D later formed the basis for a pair of Northrop X-21A experimental aircraft intended for laminar flow control wing testing by NASA.

Over the course of its service life, the B-66/RB-66 took on sorties involving the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. Most of its career centered on the reconnaissance role where valuable data on enemy positions was essential to upcoming offensives and air strikes. ECM versions also supplied the necessary jamming of North Vietnam air defense radar systems coupled to deadly ground-based fire and Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) emplacements. The line was formally retired during 1975 as its battlefield roles were taken on by more modern mounts. Some examples managed extended service lives in testing programs and as museum showpieces.




Cockpit picture from the Douglas B-66 / RB-66 Destroyer Tactical Light Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft
Douglas B-66 / RB-66 Destroyer Cockpit Picture


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (634mph).

    Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Douglas B-66 Destroyer's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
294
294


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1956
Type: Tactical Light Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Douglas Aircraft Company - USA
Production: 294
Global Operators:
United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Douglas B-66 Destroyer model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
3


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
75.13 ft


Meters
22.9 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
72.51 ft


Meters
22.1 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
23.62 ft


Meters
7.2 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
42,549 lb


Kilograms
19,300 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
83,776 lb


Kilograms
38,000 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x Allison J71-A-11 / J71-A-13 turbojet engines generating 10,200lbs of thrust each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
634 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
1,020 kph


Knots
551 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
2,467 mi


Kilometers
3,970 km


Nautical Miles
2,144 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
39,370 ft


Meters
12,000 m


Miles
7.46 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
5,000 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
1,524 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft anti-radar/anti-radiation missile
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (0):

STANDARD:
2 x 20mm cannons in remote-operated, radar-guided tail turret.

OPTIONAL:
Up to 15,000lbs of ordnance held in an internal bomb bay.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• B-66 "Destroyer" Base Series Designation
• RB-66A - Pre-production photographic reconnaissance variant; five examples produced.
• RB-66B - Definitive photographic reconnaissance mark; fitted with Allison J71-A-13 engine; 149 examples.
• EB-66E - Highly specialized ECM model based on the RB-66B.
• B-66B - Tactical Light Bomber Variant based on the RB-66B; 72 examples.
• RB-66C - Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) aircraft based on the RB-66B; bomb bay converted to mission room for four additional operators; 36 examples.
• EB-66C - Four RB-66C models with updated ECM equipment.
• NB-66B - One-off B-66B and RB-66B models used in radar testing for F-111 program.
• WB-66D - Weather reconnaissance platform with five crew; 36 examples.
• X-21A - Pair of WB-66D airframes used in laminar flow wing testing by NASA; work by Northrop.