Reconnaissance Hustlers

Last revised January 9, 2007


In January of 1956, a special reconnaissance B-58 configuration was proposed which called for the development of a special pod that would carry an AN/APQ-69 side-looking radar set. The AN/APQ-69 was a "real aperture" radar and required an extremely large antenna, one almost 50 feet long, making it one of the largest antenna that had yet been mounted aboard an aircraft.

The pod and its radar were built by the Hughes Aircraft Company and were delivered to Convair in February of 1959. Because of the size of the antenna and the associated electronic systems, the pod could not carry any fuel. The system was fitted under B-58A 55-0668 and was flight-tested for the first time on December 24, 1959. Some 25 test flights were carried out with the pod. During these tests, the radar range achieved was about 50 miles with a resolution of 10 feet. However, because of the pod's size and rectangular configuration (and its blunt nose), the B-58 was limited to subsonic speeds when it was installed. The installation of the pod also adversely affected the aircraft's range, since it carried no fuel. Consequently, further work on this radar reconnaissance system was abandoned.

In June of 1958, a more sophisticated B-58 reconnaissance proposal was issued by the Aerial Reconnaissance Laboratories of the Wright Air Development Center. It was given the code name Quick Check. The system was to be based on the Goodyear AN/APS-73 (XH-3) X-band synthetic aperture radar. This radar featured simultaneous terrain mapping capability that could be used on both sides of the aircraft at ranges of up to 80 nautical miles with a resolution of 50 feet. The Quick Check project involved the modification of the aircraft's frame as well as the adaptation of a special MB-1 pod to carry the radar. Unlike the earlier AN/APQ-69 radar, the Goodyear AN/APS-73 required considerably less pod space, which permitted the pod to carry fuel as well as the radar.

55-0668 was modified to carry the Quick Check pod in June of 1960. A new and slightly bulged nose radome was fitted to accommodate a special Raytheon forward-looking radar, and the instrumentation installed at the second crew station was revised. The Quick Check modified aircraft was delivered in May of 1961. The Quick Check aircraft was actually used for an overflight of Cuba during the October 1962 missile crisis. The radar system functioned fairly well, but resolution was found to be the highest when subsonic speeds were used. Despite its promise, the Quick Check program was cancelled following completion of the flight test program.

Following the end of the Quick Check program, B-58 55-668 was scheduled to be the testbed for the B-58B project, but when that program was cancelled as well, the plane was converted to TB-58A trainer configuration. The plane was put on display at the Southwest Aerospace Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The plane is now on display at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, TX, and has been there since 1990.


Sources:


  1. American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  2. Post World War II Bombers, Marcelle Size Knaack, Office of Air Force History, 1988.

  3. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  4. Convair B-58 Hustler: The World's First Supersonic Bomber, Jay Miller, Aerofax, 1997.

  5. E-mail from Elizabeth French on current location of 55-668