Model Airplane News
July, 1962

Model Airplane News Cover for July, 1962 by Jo Kotula Convair B-58 Hustler

Convair B-58 "Hustler"
Model Airplane News Cover Art for July, 1962
by Jo Kotula
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The Convair B-58 "Hustler" was the first operational supersonic jet bomber, and the first capable of Mach 2 flight. The aircraft was developed for the United States Air Force for service in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the late 1950s. It was originally intended to fly at high altitudes and speeds to avoid Soviet fighters. However, the introduction of highly accurate Soviet surface-to-air missiles forced the B-58 into a low-level penetration role that severely limited its range, strategic value, and operating life. Although they cost $124 million each, they only served from 1960 to 1969. The B-58 received a great deal of notoriety due to its sonic boom, which was often heard by the public as it passed overhead in supersonic flight.

 The Convair B-58 Hustler     The Convair B-58 Hustler

The Convair B-58 Hustler  Escape Capsule     The Convair B-58 Hustler

Convair B-58 "Hustler"
Including the "Escape Capsule"
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The B-58 program began in 1949,and experimentation led to a delta wing design that a 1,000 mph speed and a 3,000 mile range. The resulting B-58 design was the first "true" USAF supersonic bomber program. The Convair design was based on a delta wing with a leading-edge sweep of 60 with four General Electric J79-GE-1 turbojet engines, capable of flying at twice the speed of sound. 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. Later versions gave each crew member a novel ejection capsule that made it possible to eject at an altitude of 70,000 ft at speeds up to Mach 2. Unlike standard ejection seats of the period, a protective clamshell would enclose the seat and the control stick with an attached oxygen bottle. In an unusual and somewhat controversial test program, live bears and chimpanzees were successfully used to test the ejection system.

The pilot's cockpit was fairly conventional although it was the first to make use of automatic voice messages and warnings. Research during the era of all-male combat aircraft assignments revealed that a woman's voice was more likely to gain the attention of young men in distracting situations. Actress and singer Joan Elms recorded the automated voice warnings and was known as "Sexy Sally." Defensive armament consisted of a single 20 mm rotary cannon with 1,200 rounds of ammunition. Offensive armament typically consisted of a single nuclear weapon, along with fuel tanks, in a streamlined pod under the fuselage. The B-58 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 five nuclear weapons per airplane. A photo reconnaissance pod, was also fielded. Several other specialized pods for ECM or an early cruise missile were considered, but not adopted.

The plane had a much smaller weapons load and more limited range than the B-52 Stratofortress. The B-58 was expensive -- in 1959 it was reported that it was worth more than its weight in gold. It had an unfavorably high accident rate: 26 B-58 aircraft were lost in accidents, 22.4% of total production. However, its crews eventually became enthusiastic about the aircraft; its performance and design were appreciated, although it was never easy to fly. A total of 116 B-58s were produced. It appeared as the "Vindicator" bomber in the film Fail safe, in which wimpo president Henry Fonda trades New York for Moscow in a nuclear accident scenario.

Here is a video of the Convair B-58 "Hustler":

Jo Kotula revisited this airplane in the "Box Art" for the Aurora kit for the Convair B-58 "Hustler".

Aurora plastic model kit for the Convair B-58 Hustler  box art by Jo Kotula

Aurora Plastic Model of the Convair B-58 "Hustler"
Artwork by Jo Kotula
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