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The RB-57D was built strictly as a high-altitude reconnaissance platform. The basic B-57 design was used as a starting point for the D model, but there were several significant changes incorporated. The first and most obvious was the greatly enlarged wing. The wing was lengthened by 42 feet to 106 feet overall. The chord (width) of the wing was also increased, which when combined with the increased length, gave the wing a very high lift capability.
The second major change to the RB-57D was the addition of Pratt & Whitney J57 engines in place of the Wright J65s used on all earlier B-57 models. The two J57s produced about 20,000 pounds total thrust, about 6,000 pounds more than the two J65s. Other changes in the D model included removal of all fuselage fuel tanks and the addition of "wet wing" fuel cells. All defensive armament was removed, and the bomb bay was also removed and replaced by avionics equipment. The horizontal stabilizer was changed to the variable incidence or "all flying" type. Spoilers were added the outboard wings to assist the ailerons in roll axis control.
Only 20 RB-57Ds were built, but there were four basic variants that each had mission specific changes incorporated into the design.
The first distinct group of D model Canberras were designed as single-seat aircraft. The primary mission of these aircraft was high-altitude photo reconnaissance. There were four reconnaissance cameras (two K38 and two KC1) mounted in the forward lower fuselage. Thirteen aircraft were built and divided into two subgroups. Seven aircraft were built (S/N 53-3970 to 53-3976) with in-flight refueling (IFR) capability and six more (S/N 53-3977 to 53-3982) were built without IFR equipment.
The next variant, designated RB-57D-1, was also a single-seat version, but its mission was electronic (radar) reconnaissance. This type didn't have any cameras but had an extensive suite of radar equipment installed throughout the fuselage. The aircraft had a nose radome housing an AN/APN-107 radar antenna. A number of search radars and an AN/APQ-56 Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) were mounted within the fuselage. The SLAR was primarily used for radar mapping and its antennas were mounted on the lower fuselage just below the aft wing. These antennas gave the D-1 a unique appearance. Only one aircraft was built of this type (S/N 53-3963), and it was capable of being refueled in flight.
The final variant was the RB-57D-2. This aircraft carried a crew of two -- pilot and electronic warfare officer/observer -- and was designed for the electronic ferret mission. Six RB-57D-2 (S/N 53-3964 to 53-3969) were built and all had IFR capability. The aircraft has the same AN/APN-107 nose radar, but also had an AN/APA-69A radar with an antenna mounted in a distinctive belly radome.
The RB-57D remained in service for only about five years. The Lockheed U-2 was a more capable aircraft and replaced the RB-57D in U.S. strategic reconnaissance units. Some aircraft were modified for weather reconnaissance (WB-57D) or electronic "aggressor" aircraft (EB-57D) assigned to the Air Defense Command and used to fly training missions against continental defense installations. A few aircraft were transferred to Taiwan in the late 1950s for high altitude reconnaissance missions. Because of the greatly lengthened wing, the RB-57D suffered from a number of accidents where the wing broke off at the outboard engine nacelle mount points.
Four RB-57Ds were rebuilt by General Dynamics in the mid-1960s as RB-57Fs. The F model featured a wing with a span 16 feet greater than the D model.
The museum has an RB-57D on display in the Cold War Gallery.
||High-altitude reconnaissance aircraft
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-9 turbojets of 10,000 lbs. static thrust each
Maximum speed: Approx. 600 mph at 45,000 ft.
Cruising speed: Approx. 420 knots at 65,000 ft.
Combat radius: Approx. 2,000 miles
Service ceiling: Approx. 70,000 ft.
Span: 106 ft. 0 in.
Length: 66+ ft. depending on variant
Height: 15 ft. 7 in.
Weight: Approx. 59,000 lbs. (maximum takeoff weight)
Crew: One or two depending on variant
Serial numbers: 53-3963 to 53-3982
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