B-58 Hustler: Champion of Champions

Hustler-1000Check out this old Cold War propaganda video of the Convair B-58 Hustler strategic bomber hosted by actor and US Air Force Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart. The B-58 was, as Stewart says, a spectacular aircraft with extraordinary performance—especially for the 1950s, just over a decade after the introduction of the Luftwaffe’s Arado Ar-234, which was the first ever jet bomber.[youtube]http://youtu.be/cEKyTxnrXIc[/youtube]

Of course, what Stewart does not mention was that the advent of Soviet surface-to-air missiles such as the S-75 Dvina (or SA-2 Guideline as it was known to NATO) basically rendered the high-altitude, high speed supersonic bomber useless. Nonetheless, in terms of pure performance, it was awesome.

Incidentally, it took about four years to design the B-58. That’s something that probably won’t happen again in this industry unless something radical happens.

11 Responses to B-58 Hustler: Champion of Champions

  1. S O 9 October, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    “Useless” is a bit too harsh.
    The engagement envelope of SAMs against Mach 2 bombers were small enough to allow them to slip through a SAM line with either luck or a good briefing on the SAM site locations.

    The B-58 wasn’t an as reliable means of delivering a nuclear warhead in face of modern defences as was a ballistic missile, though.

    • Remarkable Kanoodle 10 October, 2013 at 6:55 am #

      If the SA-2 performance in Vietnam is any indication, a one time B-58 Mach 2 penetration of Soviet airspace would of had an insignificant loss rate. What scared the manned bombers out of production was the apparent rate of Soviet technological improvement and the subsequent arms race. The old systems had to be retired to make way for the new and improved systems even if, in retrospect, they could have served for a greater period.

      • Ronaldo 10 October, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

        I am about to faint from exposure to a reasoned perspective.

        Well said !

  2. sferrin 10 October, 2013 at 12:16 am #

    11,000lb payload zoomed up to 85,000 feet. Record still stands.

  3. cowboyexpat 13 October, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Since B-58 design began in earnest in 1952, and all trending was towards supersonic penetration at high altitude, pretty sure bet the SA-2 design was a result of the emerging threat. Natural evolution…and not unusual….but for you, American aviation firsts always make you go negative.

  4. Roberts150 13 October, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    What killed the B-58 was it’s reliability and maintainability, both horrendous. It was far too expensive to try to keep flying, even in the cold war fiscal environment, and suffered very poor availability rates. The avionics were almost always broke and they didn’t really have a good maintenance concept for the metal honeycomb structure. Apparently they weren’t well sealed and moisture intrusion started corroding the honeycomb. Once that happened the choice was between essentially remanufacturing the whole airframe every decade or so, or retiring it.

    Still, it wins hands down for beauty. A modeler’s and photographer’s dream. Wish they would have worked better, but it was probably a technological leap too far, as the article mentions coming only a decade or so after the Ar-234.

    • F-14D 18 October, 2013 at 1:23 am #

      Plus McNamara wanted to get more F-111s built.

  5. Jim 13 October, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    That and you can see the next step, when compared with the B-1.

  6. Allen 13 October, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    Pretty interesting to parse the language near the beginning, “manned bomber accuracy.” I assume this is bomber advocates taking a shot at advocates for “unmanned” missiles. Of course, it kind of seems like the missile advocates won out in the end, although some air forces still retain the ability to deliver nukes via aircraft. We are currently in a debate between advocates of traditional aircraft and pilotless drones that seems parallel. I have noticed the media seldom uses “manned” as a term now, maybe that’s because there are now female pilots?

  7. Tom Donegan 15 October, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    What a great airplane. Now a little lost history. At about 7.41 in the video, a flight speed record was set, the first of many for this aircraft. The air force pilot. who along with two other crew members, flew this mission was Major Henry J. Deutschendorf. His son was Henry J. Deutschendorf, Jr. a pilot in his own right who was later killed piloting his own Rutan Long Bow aircraft into the Pacific Ocean off Monterey AIrport, CA . The date was October 2, 1997. John Jr. was better known as John Denver, the legendary folk singer, a resident of Aspen Colorado, who wrote such hits as Annie’s Song, Rocky Mountain High and Leaving on Jet Plane. John Denver’s dad after retiring from the Strategic AIr Command, taught John to fly and many times flew him on his music tours all over the world. John loved flying and owned a personal Lear jet and other aircraft he flew out of Aspen. John is credited with the phrase “Far Out,” which is the right closing remark about connecting these two individuals from a old documentary movie with General Jimmy Stewart as the “leading man.”

  8. demophilus 24 October, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    There’s a pretty good B-58 website at, if you’re interested.

    The inventory of destroyed aircraft at is pretty sobering. It was a beautiful, high performance airplane, but it killed a lot of aircrew.

    IIRC, there’s a compilation of accident footage somewhere; saw it listed for sale in an aviation magazine 20-30 years ago, but I can’t find it on the Web.

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