B-58 Hustler, Convair

Convair B-58 bomber

The B-58 was a supersonic jet bomber. The B-58 had a large, thin delta wing, a sleek area-ruled fuselage, and four J79 engine on pylons under the delta wing. The wing and much of the fuselage were filled with 41350 liters of fuel. For efficiency and range, it carried the bombs and more fuel in a jettisonable large pod under the fuselage, with a cross-section larger than than of its fuselage. Several types of pod were used, including one that could be dropped in two sections. A too short range and excessive operating costs brought an early end to the B-58's service life. Production began with no less than 30 pre-series YB-58s, followed by 86 standard B-58As. One NB-58 engine testbed and eight TB-58 trainers were built. 116 built.

Type: B-58A
Function: bomber
Year: 1959
Crew: 3 pilot; observer (navigator, radar operator, bombardier); defense system operator (DSO; electronic countermeasures operator and pilot assistant).
Engines: 4 * 7076kg G.E. J79-GE-5A turbojets
Wing Span: 17.32 m
Length: 29.49 m
Height: 9.58 m
Wing Area: 143.25 m2
Wing loading: 214.9 kg/m²
Wing Aspect ratio: 2.09
Empty Weight: 25202 kg
Max.Weight: 73936 kg
Speed: 2229 km/h
Ceiling: 18290 m
Rate of climb: 13.7 m/s
Combat Range: 3219 km
Ferry Range 7,590 km
Armament: 1*g20mm, 4 B-43 or B61 nuclear bombs (max payload 8823 kg)


The delta-wing Hustler was the first USAF supersonic operational bomber. The B-58 made its initial flight on Nov. 11, 1956 and flew supersonically on Dec. 30, 1956. Distinctive B-58 features included its sophisticated inertial guidance navigation and bombing system, slender "wasp-waist" fuselage, and extensive use of heat-resistant honeycomb sandwich skin panels in the wings and fuselage. The thin fuselage prevented internal carriage of bombs so an external droppable two-component pod beneath the fuselage contained extra fuel and a nuclear weapon, reconnaissance equipment, or other specialized gear. The B-58 crew consisted of a pilot, navigator-bombardier, and defense systems operator. The USAF ordered 86 Hustlers which were operational in the Strategic Air Command between 1960 and 1970. B-58s set 19 world speed and altitude records and won five different aviation trophies.

Note: There were a total of 116 B-58s built: 30 test and pre-production aircraft and 86 for inventory. The B-58A on display flew from Los Angeles to New York and returned on March 5, 1962, earning the crew the Bendix and Mackay Trophies for 1962. It was flown to the Museum in Dec. 1969.


The B-58 had a delta wing with a leading-edge sweep of 60. With four General Electric J79-GE-1 turbojet engines, it was capable of flying at twice the speed of sound. Although its large wing made for relatively low wing loading, it proved to be surprisingly well suited for low-altitude, high-speed flight. It seated three (pilot, bombardier/navigator, and defensive systems operator) in separated tandem cockpits, equipped with a novel ejection capsule that made it possible to eject at an altitude of 21,000 m (70,000 ft) at speeds up to Mach 2 (2,450 km / 1,320 mph), something impossible with standard ejection seats of the period.

The B-58 typically carried a single nuclear weapon in a streamlined MB-1C pod under the fuselage. From 1961 to 1963 it was retrofitted with two tandem stub pylons under each wing, inboard of the engine pod, for B43 or B61 nuclear weapons for a total of 5 nuclear weapons per airplane. A single M61 Vulcan cannon was mounted in a radar-directed tail turret for defense. Although the USAF explored the possibility of using the B-58 for the conventional strike role, it was never equipped for carrying or dropping conventional bombs in service. A photo-reconnaissance pod, the LA-331, was also fielded. Several other specialized pods for ECM or an early cruise missile were considered, but not adopted.

Span: 56 ft. 10 in.
Length: 96 ft. 10 in.
Height: 31 ft. 5 in.
Weight: 163,000 lbs. max.
Armament: One 20mm cannon in tail; nuclear weapons in pod or on under-wing pylons
Engines: Four General Electric J79s of 15,000 lbs. thrust ea. with afterburner
Cost: $12,442,000
Maximum speed: 1,325 mph
Cruising speed: 610 mph.
Range: 4,400 miles without aerial refueling
Service Ceiling: 64,800 ft.

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