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.