Military Review

The first serial supersonic bomber Convair B-58A Hustler

Convair B-58A Hustler (English "pickpocket") became the world's first serial supersonic long-range bomber. The machine was in service with the US Air Force in 1960-s. At the time of creation, the bomber was not inferior to fighter aircraft at its maximum flight speed (M = 2). Because of the shortcomings, the operation of the machine turned out to be short. In total, 116 aircraft of this type were produced in the USA, while 86 was released in the B-58A version.

Convair B-58 bomber had a very big influence on the development of the American aviation industry. For the first time in practice in the United States, it was possible to test a systematic approach in managing the program for creating an aircraft. At the same time, Convair acted as the main contractor, who was responsible for managing the development and integration of all (except the engines) components of the aircraft. In addition, a huge number of industrial enterprises and firms took part in the creation of the aircraft. At the beginning of 1961, their number reached 4926 (in 44 states). The scale of the work is very large, even by today's standards. The costs of the program turned out to be record-breaking, which, taking into account the release of 116 bombers, exceeded $ 3 billion. The American press of those years wrote that the Convair B-58A bomber was collected from pure gold.

Description of construction

The supersonic bomber was made according to the “tailless” scheme and had a mid-level delta wing of small elongation and large sweep. For its class, the aircraft was distinguished by its small size: length - 29,5 meters, height - 8,9 meters, wing span - 17,3 meters. The provision of high flight speeds forced the designers to develop a unique airframe design, practically the entire surface of which was made of three-layer glued aluminum structures. This made it very smooth and provided a good streamline. In places subject to increased heat, the skin was made of steel panels, and the gluing was changed for soldering. If necessary, all the trim from the aircraft could be removed. In this case, the weight of the structure was only 16,5% of the bomber's take-off weight.

The aircraft was equipped with 4 turbojet engines J79-GE-5 manufactured by General Electric, which developed thrust at maximum speed - 5400 kgf, and in the afterburner mode - 7070 kgf. The fuel was located in 5 internal tanks, as well as in outboard containers (containers of type TCP contained 14 705 liters, and MB-1 - 15 791 liter). To balance the bomber, when the sound velocity passed or when the container was dropped, fuel could be pumped into the tail balancing tank. In this case, the aircraft was originally equipped with a system for refueling in the air of the "flying rod" type.

Separate history there was a wing of the plane. For its time, the wing of the Convair B-58A Hustler bomber had a very progressive aerodynamic layout, including a conical twist. The latter not only solved the balancing problems, but also made it possible to increase the flight range and somewhat reduce the inductive resistance. Since the internal volume of the wing was used to locate fuel reserves, the aerodynamic heating of the wing skin during flights at supersonic speeds became a significant problem. In the case of heating the fuel could be his loss due to evaporation, as well as blockage of pipelines or disruption of the fuel transfer systems to balance the machine.

On this basis, special recommendations for the operation of the bomber were prescribed. After taking off, the pilot had to quickly gain altitude before reaching the cold layers of the atmosphere, and also imposed a limit on the duration of the flight at supersonic. At low and medium altitudes, the pilot sometimes had to slow the aircraft down to a speed of M = 0,9 in order to reduce the wing temperature. In order to avoid heating the fuel before making the departure, it was recommended to put the bomber in the shade, use special heat insulating covers and even resort to cooling the fuel itself before refueling it into the bomber. In parts for “Hastlerov” even special canopies were constructed in the form of houses, which became one of the business cards of the airfields on which B-58 were based.

The bomber's chassis was distinguished by unusually high racks, which made it possible to hang a huge container with weapons and fuel under the fuselage. The main eight-wheel landing gear retracted into the wing, and the two-wheeled front support - in the fuselage. At the same time, in order not to hurt the hanging container, the front desk was originally folded in half. For the main landing gear, the wing was not thick enough, and it had to be increased in the area of ​​the landing gear niches, forming a wedge-shaped influx from above.

B-58A bombers were almost always used with an external suspension under the fuselage. In this case, the following could be suspended: 1) MC-1C - a guided missile with a fluid engine, which had an inertial guidance system. This rocket could be equipped with either a nuclear warhead or warhead with a charge of ordinary explosives. The range of the launch of the rocket depended on the height of the aircraft at the moment of separation of the UR from the fuselage and ranged from 16 to 257 kilometers. In order to launch at a maximum range, the pilot was forced to gain greater flight altitude, which made the bomber a very good target for modern enemy air defense systems. 2) MB-1C - free-fall aerial bomb or ballast to improve the flight characteristics of the aircraft. This container was used in the first years of operation of the bomber. 3) TCP is a special “two-component container”. One part of the outboard container contained the Mk53 bomb, the other - the fuel reserves. There were two types of similar containers: BLU2 / B1 and BLU2 / B2, from each other they differed in size and weight. At the same time, the MC-1 could also be hung on the bomber - a container with reconnaissance equipment or 4 nuclear bombs Mk43 of megaton capacity.

For the defense of the rear hemisphere of the bomber in its tail was located six-barreled 20-mm automatic gun M-61, which had a remote control. At the same time on board there were also means of electronic countermeasures to the controlled arms likely opponent. For all defensive weapons and EW equipment, a separate crew member was responsible — the operator. The defensive EW complex of the B-58 bomber included: AN / ALR 12 station with four antennas providing all-round visibility. It was intended to warn about the radar exposure of the aircraft. This station automatically controlled the emission of dipole reflectors. Ten packages with them were located in the upper wing fairings of the niches of the main landing gear. Also on board there was a station for reconnaissance and jamming and equipment for countering guided missiles with thermal targeting systems.

The crew of the bomber consisted of 3-x people who were placed in a single sealed cabin one after another, the crew cabin was equipped with air conditioning system. The pilot was in the first compartment, in the second - the navigator-scorer, in the third - the operator of defensive weapons. The seats of all crew members were ejected. Each of the three compartments was closed by its opaque lantern. The compartments of the navigator-bombardia and the defensive weapon operator had two small rectangular windows in the sides of the hull, so that the crew members did not experience claustrophobia.

Machine records

12 January 1961, Major G. Doichendorf, was able to set a Connair B-58A Hustler bomber flight record for 2000 km on a closed route with a short lap distance, while achieving an average speed of 1708,8 km / h. Two days later, the aircraft under the command of Major G. Konfer exceeded the flight record for 1000 km, while reaching an average flight speed - 2067,57 km / h. And May 10 of the same year, Major E. Murphy won the prize, which was established by Louis Bleriot in 1930 year. He became the first pilot to fly at a speed of more than 2000 km / h in 30 minutes. Six days later, Major V. Payne and his crew successfully completed the flight from Carswell to Paris, setting a record flight time from Washington - 3 hours 39 minutes 49 seconds and New York - 3 hours 19 minutes 51 seconds. And October 16 1963, Hustler set a record for the duration of the flight at supersonic speeds - 5 hours, flying from Tokyo to London for 8 hours 35 minutes, while the aircraft took five refueling in the air.

Aircraft service

The first B-58A bombers began to enter service with US strategic aviation as a carrier of medium-range nuclear weapons even before the completion of the entire test program in August 1960. The first new aircraft began to master the pilots of the 43-th bomber wing. While the aircraft was being refined, the staffs were developing options for its combat use. It was originally planned to create three wings, deploying them at the European theater of operations. The combat radius of these bombers allowed them to strike at military targets and targets on the territory of the USSR right up to the Ural Mountains. The main task of the crews of the B-58A supersonic bomber was to be the destruction of objects of the Soviet air defense system, its decommissioning could open the way for the heavy subsonic B-52 and B-47 bombers.

At the same time, the first year of operation of B-58 bombers in combat squadrons demonstrated that these aircraft are far from perfect. Pilots often complained about the complexity of piloting an aircraft and the low reliability of some of its systems. The command of US strategic aviation, realizing that, apparently, it would not be possible to significantly improve the performance of the aircraft, decided in 1961 in the year to limit the deployment of two bomber wings: the 43 and the 305. The last three aircraft were delivered to the USAF 26 in October 1962 of the year, on which the release of the aircraft was completed.

In total, 1956 B-1962A and TB-116A bombers were assembled from 58 to 58 years, which were actively exploited until the 1969 year. Pilots to these aircraft did not feel much love. During testing and operation, 26 bombers were lost (22,4% of all vehicles produced) - this is a very high loss rate for peacetime. One of the bombers crashed in 1961 during a demonstration flight at the famous Paris Air Show in Le Bourget. Despite the fact that throughout the entire period of operation of the machine was carried out modernization of the systems and equipment of the aircraft, the B-58A Hustler quickly became obsolete and, in the end, was removed from service with the US Air Force. Already 16 January 1970, the last two supersonic bomber B-58A were deposited.

Aircraft flaws

The B-58 bomber could not hold out for long in the US Air Force and repeat the record of its "colleague" B-52. Already in 1970, the last aircraft Convair B-58A Hustler were withdrawn from the Air Force. The aircraft had enough cons. One of the main ones was the limited flight range. And this is despite the fact that in the bomber take-off mass, fuel accounted for about 60%. At subsonic airspeed without performing aerial refueling, the plane could cross the 7550 km. This figure did not satisfy the TZ, according to which the radius of action should have been 4260 km in the presence of a supersonic flight segment of 370 kilometers in length. Under normal operating conditions, without refueling, the B-58 could fly by supersonic a maximum of 560-800 km.

The aircraft had a very dense internal layout. For this reason, access to various units during ground handling was greatly hampered, and the technicians themselves called the B-58 a “nightmarish” aircraft. For example, one of the rather often replaced radar elements was removed only after lifting with the help of a winch from the cabin of the rescue capsule. After replacing the element, the capsule was returned to its place, but if the radar did not work after that, the whole procedure was repeated again. To change the damaged elements of the skin, the bomber had to be put on the slipway, since almost all the panels of its fuselage were power, and the removal of any of these panels threatened with a loss of structural strength.

Being on the ground, with the internal fuel tanks completely filled with fuel, the bomber had permissible alignment only with the container suspended, without it the car simply “crouched” on the tail. For this reason, before removing the outboard container from the aircraft, it was necessary to drain the fuel from the internal tanks and vice versa, full refueling of the aircraft with fuel was not allowed until the container was suspended. In its absence, in order to prevent the aircraft from tipping over onto the tail, a counterweight 2,8 tons of weight was attached to the front suspension mounting or to the node in the niche of the nose landing gear.

Due to the difficulty in operating and piloting the bomber was demanding of the qualifications of pilots and ground support personnel. These requirements were among the highest in the US Air Force. The combatant pilots for this aircraft were selected only on the personal recommendation of the commander of the wing and should have had at least 1000 hours of flight time. Of them at least 500 hours they had to fly off the commander of the crew operating multi-engine jets (B-47, B-52, KS-135). During the refresher training, every B-58 pilot had to work on 30 simulators for hours and collect 90 flight hours. In addition, due to the lack of space in the cockpit in the US Air Force, there were restrictions on the height and weight of the pilots for the B-58.

One of the drawbacks of the Hustler was also the clearly unsatisfactory forward-down view from the pilot's cockpit, which was especially negative during the take-off and landing. Approximately ten seconds before touching the ground, the pilot completely lost sight of the center line of the runway and drove the bomber only by instrumentation and, using the side landmarks.

With such a set of flaws, a huge price and difficulties in operation, the B-58 bomber, devoid of serious reserves for further improvement and intended solely for delivering nuclear strikes from high altitudes with high subsonic or supersonic flight speeds, had no chance to remain in the ranks for a long time. At that moment, a trend was beginning to take shape on multi-purpose multi-purpose aircraft capable of flying at low altitudes.

Aircraft Convair B-58A Hustler at Pima air museum, Tucson, Arisona, photo from blog

Flight specifications of the Convair B-58A Hustler:
Overall dimensions: length - 29,5 m, height - 8,9 m, wing span - 17,3 m, wing area - 143,31 m2.
Empty weight - 25 201 kg.
Maximum take-off weight - 80 240 kg.
The power plant - 4 TRD J79-GE-5A / B, the load - 5400 kgf each, afterburner - 7070 kgf.
Maximum flight speed - 2120 km / h
Cruising flight speed - 980 km / h.
Practical range - 7600 km.
Practical ceiling - 19 300 m.
Crew - 3 man (pilot, navigator-scorer, defensive weapon operator).
Armament: six-barrel 20-mm gun M61 Vulcan (1200 shells), up to 8800 kg bomb load.

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  1. inkass_98
    inkass_98 2 December 2015 07: 45
    One of the slang translations of the word "Hustler" is "bisexual prostitute", which fully corresponded to the ideas of the flight and technical personnel about this aircraft. Of the positive qualities, it can be noted that in the event of a supersonic disaster, the crew was theoretically better protected from oncoming streams, since it was ejected in a rescue capsule. Practice, however, did not confirm this, therefore, the capsule was not used anywhere in the future, as far as I remember.
    The Americans managed to create two aircraft, which together enjoyed the huge dislike of the pilots, but were kind of breakthrough in their field: these are the B-58 and F-104. Both gave a huge percentage of losses in peacetime.
    1. Bad_gr
      Bad_gr 2 December 2015 14: 56
      Quote: inkass_98
      Of the positive qualities, it is possible to note that the crew in the event of a supersonic disaster was theoretically better protected from oncoming flows, since it was catapulted in a rescue capsule. Practice, however, did not confirm this, therefore the capsule was not used anywhere in the future, as far as I remember.

      and B-1 "Lancer". But if my memory serves me right, then on the B-1 they refused the capsule in favor of ejected seats. In memory of the capsule, the B-1 cockpit remained slightly convex above the aircraft body (unlike the Tu-160).
      1. Arikkhab
        Arikkhab 2 December 2015 16: 34
        what’s on the top picture is the capsule from F-111 (if you look closely, there’s even a plate on the glass)
        1. aviator65
          aviator65 2 December 2015 18: 14
          You confuse a capsule with a detachable cabin. On the F111 is the cab.
    2. The comment was deleted.
    3. Arikkhab
      Arikkhab 2 December 2015 16: 51
      The F-104 was notorious for its high accident rate and even got the sad nickname "Widowmaker" ("Widowmaker") and "Flying Coffin" ("flying coffin"). The Starfighter acquired the worst reputation in the German Air Force: in total, 916 aircraft (one third of all built) were received by the West German Air Force, of which approximately 292 (i.e. ~ 30%) were lost in flight accidents; 116 pilots died.
      In the worst period, the accident rate was 139 accidents per 100 hours. The largest number of accidents occurred in the first years of operation, later measures taken by the Air Force leadership led to a decrease in their number in the late 000s, but in the 1960s about a dozen planes crashed every year.
      In fact, the accident rate of German cars, although very high, was not exceptional. It should be noted that the German Air Force lost 36% of its F-84F Thunderstrike in flight accidents, but this fact remained little known. In addition, the final F-104 accident statistics for the entire time of service in the German Air Force was not so bad - one lost plane for 6630 hours of flight. For comparison, we can point out that the Soviet MiG-21 fighter had a higher accident rate at the early stage of operation in the USSR Air Force (one loss for 4650 hours of flight in 1965).
      The absolute number of crashed planes was really a record, but the Canadian Air Force ranked first in terms of relative accident rate, having lost about 46% of their F-104 fleet (however, keep in mind that the Canadian Starfighters flew two to three times more hours than the German ) It is noteworthy that the Spanish Air Force, which operated about 20 F-104 for seven years with a flight time of about 17 hours, flying in fine weather conditions, did not lose a single car. The Norwegian Air Force lost only 000% of the total number of received vehicles during two decades of operation of Starfighters
  2. Old26
    Old26 2 December 2015 09: 14
    Quote: inkass_98
    Practice, however, did not confirm this, therefore the capsule was not used anywhere in the future, as far as I remember.

    If my right side sclerosis was used on F-111 and FB-111
    1. aviator65
      aviator65 2 December 2015 09: 21
      The F-111 used a detachable cab. And then only in the first series. And on the B-58 there were precisely individual rescue capsules for each crew member.
      1. Bayonet
        Bayonet 2 December 2015 11: 53
        Quote: aviator65
        . And on the B-58 there were precisely individual rescue capsules for each crew member.

        Rescue capsule B-58.
        The automation used in the capsule of the B-58 aircraft provides preparation for the departure of the aircraft, ejection and landing itself. Preparation includes giving the pilot's body a certain fixed position, closing the capsule and sealing it. The ejection mechanism is driven by levers located on the armrests of the seat. A powder charge is ignited, the gases of which fall into two drives that fix the positions of the head, legs, body. Then the gases penetrate into the mechanism of hermetically closing the capsule, creating a pressure corresponding to a height of 5000 meters. After closing the capsule, the pilot retains the ability to control the aircraft, since the helm remains in its normal position inside the capsule, and its fairing has a porthole through which you can observe the readings. This design allows for further flight (if the accident is not catastrophic). The ejection process is based on the principle used in ejection seats equipped with rocket engines launched with the aid of an auxiliary system. Pressing the bailout lever ignites the powder charge. The gases emitted during this discharge the lantern of the cabin, the rocket engine starts. A stabilizing parachute is thrown, which initiates the opening of the stabilizer shields on the capsule surface, and the internal life support equipment is turned on. Timer-aneroid automatic machines cause the opening of the main parachute and the filling of shock-absorbing rubber pads, softening the blow when landing or splashing.
  3. Old26
    Old26 2 December 2015 09: 39
    Quote: aviator65
    The F-111 used a detachable cab. And then only in the first series. And on the B-58 there were precisely individual rescue capsules for each crew member.

    Thank. Did not know. I remember that in all the magazines and reference books of the 70s, the F-111 / FB-111 was always depicted with a detachable cabin. But I didn’t know what the B-58 had individual capsules. Thanks again
  4. Amurets
    Amurets 2 December 2015 09: 46
    The article put a plus only out of respect for the work of the author, but found nothing new for himself.
  5. Old26
    Old26 2 December 2015 10: 03
    I also put a plus. The review is interesting. History is history. And at a certain time for our country, this car was a headache
    1. Amurets
      Amurets 2 December 2015 10: 43
      Quote: Old26
      I also put a plus. The review is interesting. History is history. And at a certain time for our country, this car was a headache

      Hello Volodya! You see, I have too many materials on this car, so I probably didn’t find anything new. Yes, but it brought a lot of headache. But the main headache was the XB-70 "Valkyrie". Link: Ilyin .Levin. "Bombers. 2 volumes. And there are some separate articles.
  6. Vladimirets
    Vladimirets 2 December 2015 10: 55
    The bomber navigator and the defensive weapon operator's compartments had two small rectangular windows on the sides of the hull so that the crew would not experience claustrophobia.

    By definition, the pilot could not experience claustrophobia, but people with cockroaches could also take navigators and operators. smile
  7. kugelblitz
    kugelblitz 2 December 2015 12: 09
    Tupolev still turned out to be a more visionary designer, creating his own Tu-22. Supersound on his car was only for short-term flight modes, and his main focus was on range. As a result, the Tu-22 lived much more, was cheaper in production and so on.
    And so Convair had a lot of interesting and unusual cars, which, for example, the B-36 cost only. And so here is the direct legacy of Lippish and his deltoid wing.
    1. Bayonet
      Bayonet 2 December 2015 16: 39
      Quote: kugelblitz
      As a result, the Tu-22 lived much more, was cheaper in production and so on.

      In total, from 1960 to 1989, only Long-Range Aviation lost 31 Tu-22s, 44 people died in catastrophes. If we calculate the number of accidents and disasters with these machines per one aircraft released, this figure will be significantly higher than that of its predecessor, the Tu-16. But at the same time, the number of victims in incidents with the Tu-22 during the same period is three times less than that of the old car. 45 crew members of supersonic bombers successfully left their aircraft.
      Someone disliked this plane, but for someone the Tu-22 was a "home." But here, too, opinions differ. Some were attracted by its excellent aerobatic characteristics, while others were attracted by a 200-liter tank with an alcohol-water mixture, popularly called the "sword". fellow
      1. FID
        FID 2 December 2015 18: 06
        Quote: Bayonet
        and others - a 200-liter tank with an alcohol-water mixture, popularly called the "sword".

        Well, someone called this mixture an "awl" ... And at M-ok, the beams for the X-22 suspension were called "golden", they splashed clean (15 liters, if memory does not fail, or 25 ??? ) ...
  8. 16112014nk
    16112014nk 2 December 2015 15: 58
    And what route did the B-58 fly from Tokyo to London?
  9. Taoist
    Taoist 2 December 2015 16: 33
    Well, with regards to the capsules for ejection, on the first MiG 21 MiG models, the catapult used a cabin light that worked almost like that capsule ... But it’s difficult, hard - and in the end it was decided that a helmet and an air defense complex were quite adequate protection.
    1. Bad_gr
      Bad_gr 2 December 2015 18: 46
      On our K-36s, when bailout at supersonic speed, a deflector is advanced in front of the pilot.
  10. Des10
    Des10 2 December 2015 20: 01
    Thanks for the article, nice to read.
    And especially impressed with the close-up photograph of the defensive 6-barrel gun.
  11. Ruby
    Ruby 2 December 2015 22: 20
    This is the FIRST supersonic boiber. It is impossible to compare it with other machines, precisely because he was the FIRST.
    All the other designers, one way or another, used the experience of developing this machine, just like other breakthrough structures, including ours.
    1. Taoist
      Taoist 2 December 2015 23: 17
      It makes sense to compare it - because it turned out to be a set of erroneous engineering decisions in pursuit of a concept that has not justified itself.
      The same Tu 22 created almost at the same time and lasted longer and the machine turned out to be much more successful and universal.
      1. Bad_gr
        Bad_gr 2 December 2015 23: 48
        Quote: Taoist
        The same Tu 22 created almost at the same time and lasted longer and the machine turned out to be much more successful and universal.

        It depends on which Tu-22 to talk about. Their name is almost the same, but in fact the Tu-22, Tu-22m2, Tu-22m3 are three completely different cars. They praise only the last M-3 (I haven’t heard anything about the Tu-22m2), and the Tu-22 (Shilo) is a very emergency plane.



        1. Taoist
          Taoist 3 December 2015 14: 51
          Yes, emergency, but depending on what to compare ... Do not forget that this is also the "first heavy supersonic" Compare with the same Hustler. At the same time, the Tu 22 had a normal bomb bay and the location of the crew. And how many were produced and how long did they last? Including all over the world.
  12. Ruby
    Ruby 3 December 2015 10: 05
    Series M, began to design under Khrushchev. In those days, there was an actual moratorium on the development of new types of aircraft. Tupolev, in order to get financing, misled and called it modernization. In fact, it turned out a completely different plane, which flies now. M3 from M2 differs in engines and avionics.
    And the ancestor of Tu22, was the most emergency aircraft in the USSR Air Force, more than 20% of the fleet was lost in accidents. There were cases of failure of pilots to fly on these aircraft.
    But this was again our first supersonic bomber, on which technology was first tested.
    1. bober1982
      bober1982 3 December 2015 17: 16
      the crews never refused to fly on the Tu-22, on the Myasishchevs - yes, there were such cases.
      In the shelves, the plane (Tu-22) was called either "Cannibal" or "Flayer". In terms of the accident rate, only the Yak-28 can be compared with it.
      1. Bad_gr
        Bad_gr 3 December 2015 17: 45
        Catapult navigator Tu-22 (not "M") shot him down. On the "emk" up.

        Correct if I am mistaken.
        1. bober1982
          bober1982 3 December 2015 17: 58
          The crew was a pilot, navigator and operator, a rather unusual composition, given that it was a heavy machine. Catapulted (the whole crew) down. The escape system was unsuccessful, although more correct, not reliable, as on all types of aircraft of those years. Jump, that down, that up, everything was unreliable.
  13. bober1982
    bober1982 3 December 2015 18: 07
    on the basis of the Tu-22, they first made a modification of the Tu-22mo, then M2, and then the famous Tu-22M3
    Tupolev was worried about the Tu-22, he understood that the plane was unsuccessful. But without this plane there would have been no pride of our Long-Range Aviation - Tu-22M3
  14. flyer
    flyer 4 December 2015 12: 35
    Hustler, along with the Tu-22 (awl) were landmark cars in their time in their class. Whoever said that. And the need for them was dictated by time. And the accident rate .. On the first jet fighters after piston engines, it was no less .. Other speeds, different control algorithms, previously unknown modes and processes.