Military Aviation


The first B-58 Hustler

Taken on Feb. 15, 1958, the impressive photo in this article features the first Convair B-58 Hustler (55-665) arriving at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) Flight Test Center (re-designated as the Air Force Test Center on Jul. 13, 2012) for Phase IV testing, after having concluded a combined delivery and test flight.

Noteworthy this aircraft is part of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Flight Test Museum’s collection and is currently in storage.

The four engine delta winged aircraft, which flew for the first time on Nov. 11, 1956, was the world’s first bomber designed to sustain supersonic speeds during its mission profile. In addition to the Hustler’s delta wing shape, distinctive features included a sophisticated inertial guidance navigation and bombing system, a slender “wasp-waist” fuselage and an extensive use of heat-resistant honeycomb sandwich skin panels in the wings and fuselage. Since the thin fuselage prevented the carrying of bombs internally, a droppable, two-component pod beneath the fuselage contained a nuclear weapon – along with extra fuel, reconnaissance equipment or other specialized gear.

The B-58 crew consisted of a pilot, navigator/bombardier and defense systems operator.

Convair built 116 B-58s: 30 test and pre-production aircraft and 86 for operational service. Hustlers flew in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) between 1960 and 1970. Setting 19 world speed and altitude records, B-58s also won five different aviation trophies.

According to the Grissom Air Museum, the Hustler was an exceptional aircraft; it set nineteen world records for speed and altitude and won the Bleriot, Harmon, Bendix, McKay, Thompson, and Saunders trophies. No other plane has won this many trophies. Most of these records still stand. On October 16, 1963, Aircraft 61-2059 “Greased Lightning” crewed by Major Sidney Kubesch, Major John Barrett and Captain Gerard Williamson, flew supersonically from Tokyo to London, spending five hours at supersonic speed. The flight set five world absolute records.

Source: U.S. Air Force; Photo credit: Edwards History Office file photo / U.S. Air Force Base

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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