During the mid-1950s, thirty-six obsolescent B-50Ds were stripped of their armament and equipped for long-range weather reconnaissance missions using meteorological equipment such as high-altitude atmospheric samplers, doppler radar, and weather radar. A bomb bay fuel tank was provided for extended range. These conversions were designated WB-50D. They were intended to replace weary WB-29s which were beginning to suffer from extensive corrosion.
The modification contract was assigned to the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. The WB-50D carried improved equipment and instrumentation to adapt it to the weather mission. This included the AN/APN-82 Automatic Navigator, which was a radar navigation device capable of measuring drift and ground speed, the ANQ-7 temperature humidity indicator, the ML-313 Psychrometer, and improved altimeters and flight indicators. The new equipment proved more difficult to install than expected, and Lockheed could not meet the original schedules.
The first modified WB-50D flew on August 20, 1955, and the first example was delivered to the Air Weather Service in November of that year. Many WB-50Ds also had an air sampling system installed with a distinctive scoop mounted on the top aft part of the fuselage. This was used for weather data gathering, but it was also used to measure airboarne radioactive fallout after above-ground nuclear tests conducted by other countries.
The WB-50Ds served for a much longer period than expected. In 1960, after several fuel cells failed in flight, 28 WB-50Ds were temporarily grounded until the problem could be corrected. In the event, most WB-50Ds were retrofitted with new or surplus fuel cells. One WB-50D (49-310) was given the temporary designation of JB-50D while being used for experimental work.
WB-50Ds continued to serve into the 1960s. Phaseout of the WB-50D began in late 1963. The last WB-50D (49-310) was retired in 1967.
48-073/082 Boeing B-50D-85-BO Superfortress c/n 15882/15891 073 modified as WB-50D weather recon aircraft. 48-0103/0112 Boeing B-50D-100-BO Superfortress c/n 15912/15921 105,108 modified as WB-50D weather recon aircraft. 48-0113/0127 Boeing B-50D-105-BO Superfortress c/n 15994/16008 113,116,121,124 modified as WB-50D weather recon aircraft. 49-0260/0292 Boeing B-50D-110-BO Superfortress c/n 16036/16068 260,261,264,266,281,284/288,291 converted to WB-50D weather recon aircraft. 49-0293/0325 Boeing B-50D-115-BO Superfortress c/n 16069/16101 296,298,300,302,304,310,311,313,324 converted to WB-50D weather recon aircraft. WB-50D #49-310 temporarily designated JB-50D while used for experimental work. 49-0310 is on display at WPAFB Museum. 49-0326/0358 Boeing B-50D-120-BO Superfortress c/n 16102/16134 0332,0333,0337,0341,0345,0351 converted to WB-50D weather recon aircraft. 49-0359/0391 Boeing B-50D-125-BO Superfortress c/n 16135/16167 0371 and 0375 converted to WB-50D weather recon aircraft.