Convair B-58 Hustler

The Convair B-58 Hustler was the first operational jet bomber capable of Mach 2 supersonic flight. The aircraft was developed for the United States Air Force for service in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the late 1950s. Originally intended to fly at high altitudes and speeds to avoid Soviet fighters, the introduction of the surface-to-air missile forced the B-58 into a low-level penetration role that severely limited its range and strategic value. This led to a brief career between 1960 and 1969. Its specialized role would be succeeded by other American supersonic bombers, the FB-111A and the later B-1 Lancer. 

The Hustler had a much smaller weapons load and more limited range than the B-52 Stratofortress. The B-58 was costly to acquire and it was three times as expensive to operate as the B-52. Also, the bomber had a high accident rate: 26 aircraft were lost in accidents, 22.4% of total production. 

By the time the early problems with the B-58 had been resolved, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara decided that the B-58 was not going to be a viable weapon system. It was during its introduction that the surface-to-air missile became a viable and dangerous weapon system, one the Soviet Union extensively deployed. The solution to this problem was to fly at low altitudes, minimizing the radar line-of-sight and thus minimizing detection (exposure) time. While the Hustler was able to fly these sorts of missions, its moderate range suffered further due to the thicker low-altitude air. Its early retirement, slated for 1970, was ordered in 1965.

Convair B-58 Hustler
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Convair
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1956
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Convair 116 View

Role Strategic bomber
Manufacturer Convair
First flight 11 November 1956
Introduction 15 March 1960
Retired 31 January 1970
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 116
Unit cost US$12.44 million

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3: pilot; observer (navigator, radar operator, bombardier); defense system operator (DSO; electronic countermeasures operator and pilot assistant).
  • Length: 96 ft 9 in (29.5 m)
  • Wingspan: 56 ft 9 in (17.3 m)
  • Height: 29 ft 11 in (8.9 m)
  • Wing area: 1,542 ft (143.3 m)
  • Airfoil: NACA 0003.46-64.069 root, NACA 0004.08-63 tip
  • Empty weight: 55,560 lb (25,200 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 67,871 lb (30,786 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 176,890 lb (80,240 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 x General Electric J79-GE-5A turbojets, 15,600 lbf (69.3 kN) each
  • * Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0068
  • Drag area: 10.49 ft (0.97 m)
  • Aspect ratio: 2.09


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.1 (1,400 mph, 2,240 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,000 m)
  • Cruise speed: 610 mph (530 knots, 985 km/h)
  • Combat radius: 1,740 mi (1,510 nm, 3,220 km)
  • Ferry range: 4,720 mi (4,100 nm, 7,590 km)
  • Service ceiling 63,400 ft (19,300 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,700 ft/min (13.7 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 44.01 lb/ft (214.9 kg/m)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.919
  • Lift-to-drag ratio: 11.3 (without weapons/fuel pod)


  • Guns: 1 x 20 mm (0.787 in) T171 cannon
  • Bombs: 4 x B-43 or B61 nuclear bombs; maximum weapons load was 19,450 lb (8,823 kg)

End notes