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B-58 Hustler Brings Ferocious Speed and Power

…extensive use of heat-resistant honeycomb sandwich skin panels in the wings and fuselage.

The U.S. Air Force’s first operational supersonic bomber, the B-58 made its initial flight on Nov. 11, 1956. 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.

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Convair B-58A Hustler in flight (S/N 59-2442). Photo taken on June 29, 1967. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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

Convair XB-58 Hustler side view (S/N 55-0661), the second aircraft built. (U.S. Air Force photo)