The delta-wing Convair Hustler was the first U. S. Air Force 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 Air Force 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. Despite its successes, the Hustler had limitations in range, payload and growth potential.
There were a total of 116 B-58s built: 30 test and pre-production aircraft and 86 for inventory.
The last B-58 was retired in January 1970, about three months after the first FB-111 was accepted by SAC. The aircraft was phased out of the inventory after only 10 years of service.
´ Primary function: bomber
´ Span: 56 feet 10 inches
´ Length: 96 feet 10 inches
´ Height: 31 feet 5 inches
´ Weight: 163,000 pounds max.
´ Armament: One 20mm cannon in tail; nuclear weapons in pod or on under-wing pylons
´ Engines: Four General Electric J79s of 15,000 pounds thrust each 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 feet