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Posted 7/8/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
English Electric Canberra B-57 Prototype
English Electric Canberra B-57 Prototype 3/4 front top view (S/N 51-17352). (U.S. Air Force photo)
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After the Korean War began in June 1950, the USAF looked for a jet medium bomber to replace the aging Douglas B-26 Invader conducting night interdiction missions.

In September of that same year, the USAF issued a requirement for a jet bomber capable of cruising at 400 knots at 40,000. Additionally, because of the urgent need for the bomber, only existing prototype and production aircraft would be considered. Five aircraft were evaluated: the North American B-45 Tornado, North American AJ-1 Savage, Martin XB-51, Avro Canada CF-100 and the English Electric Canberra.

The B-45 was in service at the time of the evaluation, but was ultimately rejected because of poor maneuverability at low level. The AJ-1 was in service also (with the U.S. Navy), but was rejected because it was too slow and lacked defensive armament. The CF-100 prototype was too small to carry the required bomb load and was eliminated from the competition.

The Martin XB-51 was a strong contender; it had a maximum speed of nearly 650 miles per hour and was highly maneuverable because of its small swept back wings; however, it lacked sufficient combat radius, endurance and bomb capacity.

The English Electric Canberra, initially designed in 1945, emerged as the clear favorite in the competition. The USAF arranged a loan of an RAF Canberra B Mk 2 (WD940) and the aircraft became the first jet aircraft to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean without refueling. The flight began in Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, on Feb. 21, 1951, and terminated in Gander, Newfoundland. The flight was accomplished by a regular three-man RAF Canberra crew and covered approximately 1,800 nautical miles in less than five hours.

The fly-off competition was held on Feb. 26 and by early March, the Canberra was selected as the winner. Because English Electric wasn't able to supply aircraft to both the RAF and USAF quickly enough, Martin was selected as the prime contractor for construction of the aircraft under licensing agreements.

An initial contract for 250 aircraft to be built as B-57A was signed in late March and included the purchase of two RAF Canberra B Mk 2 aircraft. The second Canberra (WD940) was lost after it broke up during a flight test on Dec. 21, 1951. The USAF flight test crew overstressed the wing during a test which resulted in the left outboard wing section breaking off.

Despite the crash, production plans for the B-57A proceeded and the first aircraft was rolled out of the Martin plant on July 20, 1953. The B-57A was very similar to the Canberra B Mk 2. The most significant changes were the addition of more powerful J65 jet engines and the reduction to only two crewmen.

Type Number built/
English Electric Canberra 2 B-57 prototype

Armament: Approx. 10,000 lbs. of bombs maximum, normal loading 4,000-6,000 lbs.
Engines: Two Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 101 turbojets of 6,500 lbs. thrust each
Maximum speed: 550 knots
Cruising speed: 412 knots
Combat radius: 990 nautical miles
Range: Approx. 2,000 nautical miles maximum ferry range
Service ceiling: 51,400 ft.
Span: 64 ft. 0 in. (without tip tanks)
Length: 65 ft. 10 in.
Height: 15 ft. 3 in.
Weight: 48,420 lbs. gross
Crew: Three (usually tested with just pilot or pilot and engineer-observer since the B-57 was to have just two crewmen) 
Serial numbers: 51-17352 (B Mk 2 WD940) and 51-17387 (B Mk 2 WD932) 

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