The initial design studies for what was to become the B-58 began in the late 1940s and investigated the feasibility of a supersonic bomber. Studies continued throughout the early 1950s with various concepts gradually coalescing into the final B-58 design. Since one of the primary requirements for the project was maximum speed, the aircraft was relatively small -- 20 feet longer than a B-17 with half the wing span. In fact, the B-58 was classified as a medium bomber.
The aircraft was a true delta wing (no horizontal stabilizer) and was powered by four General Electric J79 turbojets providing a total of approximately 60,000 pounds of thrust at maximum power (with afterburners). The aircraft was capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2. The aircraft carried a crew of three seated in tandem in the forward fuselage. The pilot sat in the first compartment. The bombardier/navigator sat in the next compartment, and the rear compartment was for the defensive systems operator.
Two XB-58s were built (S/N 55-0660, 55-0661) for prototype testing and the first flight was on Nov. 11, 1956. Eleven more aircraft were completed as YB-58s followed by 17 RB-58s. A total of 86 production B-58As were built for operational service between 1960 and 1970.
Prototype supersonic bomber
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: Designed for one 20mm cannon in tail; nuclear weapons in pod or on under-wing pylons (none actually carried on the XB-58) Engines: Four General Electric J79-GE-1 turbojets of 15,000 lbs. thrust each with afterburner Maximum speed: 1,325 mph Cruising speed: 610 mph Range: 4,400 miles maximum ferry range Service ceiling: 64,800 ft. Span: 56 ft. 10 in. Length: 96 ft. 10 in. Height: 31 ft. 5 in. Weight: 163,000 lbs. maximum Crew: Three (pilot, navigator/bombardier, defensive systems operator) Serial number: 55-0660 and 55-0661