The B-58 Hustler was one of the most outstanding warplanes in the US Air Force. It posed a serious threat to the enemies and it was characterized by large engines and delta wing. Even though the B-58 Hustler is an engineering marvel, the pilots had a handful of work. Flying this plane was more than difficult, plus the costs of maintenance were extremely high. This aircraft remained in service for ten years, and it is time to review its lifespan.
The B-58 replaced the B-47 Stratojet as the medium bomber. The role of these planes was to launch the attack at the Soviet Union from overseas bases, but for various reasons, the B-58 operated only from the US bases. In the 1950s, Convair produced and launched the B-36 Peacemaker which was a strategic bomber for the USAF. This aircraft was large and slow, but it could carry a hydrogen bomb over the ocean, posing a threat to the Soviets. However, their interceptors made the B-36 useless and they could even shoot down the B-47 and B-52.
Meanwhile, the Hustler was nothing like the Peacemaker. It could reach Mach 2 with the nuclear warhead and fuel tank on board. With the Hustler, Americans had a weapon capable of breaching the Soviet airspace, hitting some of the crucial targets. The B-58 took off in 1956 for the first time, and it remained in the service of the army for years later.
Early delta wing airplanes were catastrophic for the pilots. Flying this plane was too demanding and many pilots struggled to master the controls. Every part of the flight could have been disastrous. It was hard to take off, land, and rotate the plane in the air. No wonder 26 out of the 116 Hustlers suffered accidents, which was 22.4% when looked over a ten-year span. Indeed, a lot of those early jets were prone to accidents, but the Hustler was the worst and many pilots died for naught.
The B-58, together with the B-36 and B-47 was never in a war. The Vietnam War was finished without the Hustler’s involvement, but that was perhaps for the best. The handling at low altitudes was poor, and most of the bombs would probably miss the targets. At that time, the Air Force desperately needed a high-performance penetration bomber, but the B-58 just wasn’t it. As a replacement, they started using the B-70 Valkyrie, but instead of fixing the problems which troubled the B-58, exactly the same things were the issue. The bomber was rendered obsolete.
It was ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara for the fleet to retire in 1965 and the Air Force did this five years later when the last of these warplanes were decommissioned. This meant that the Hustler was in service of the US Air Force for slightly less than ten years. The idea was to turn the Hustler into a civilian jetliner, but nothing happened in that respect. Instead of gaining more dominance in the air, the Americans were forced to return to the B-52 which was much more efficient in penetration of the Soviet airspace at low altitudes. Meanwhile, the FB-111 Aardvark assumed the position of the medium bomber, but this one also had a series of issues. That was the reason why it was replaced with multi-mission fighter jets F-15 and F-16. All of that led to the F-35.
All in all, the B-58 perhaps didn’t have much influence in the sky, but at least it had a menacing appearance which artists and directors found inspirational. In the movie called Fail-Safe from 1964, the group of B-58 Hustlers completely demolished Moscow. The B-58 might have been a failure, but the Americans learned a lot from it. Only multiple-mission jets such as the B-52 that is versatile enough would survive.