Super Hustler

Last revised March 29, 2020


During the winter of 1957, Convair proposed a new type of bombing system to the Air Force, one based on the use of the B-58 Hustler as a carrier aircraft for a new, high-speed parasite aircraft. The project was given the name Super Hustler, although the parasite aircraft itself was to be based on a completely new design.

The new parasite aircraft was to be carried underneath the B-58 in the position normally occupied by the pod. The parasite aircraft was to have consisted of two components. One component was to be a powered, manned vehicle containing a crew of two, whereas the other was to be a powered expendable unmanned vehicle containing either a nuclear warhead or fuel, depending on the nature of the mission. However, it was anticipated that the most likely mission for the parasite would probably be reconnaissance.

The manned component of the parasite was 46 feet 7 inches long, with a wingspan of 18 feet 9 inches. The gross weight was about 10,500 pounds. It carried two crewmembers seated side-by-side and was to be powered during cruise by a single Marquardt RJ-59 ramjet engine offering a thrust of 10,000 pounds at Mach 3 and about 5000 pounds at Mach 4. The manned component was to be recovered at the end of the mission and featured a skid main gear and a conventional wheeled nose gear for landing. It was also to be equipped with a single General Electric J85 turbojet that would assist during landing. The forward fuselage section had a nose tip that folded under and back during takeoff in order to accommodate the B-58's nose landing gear clearances, and the forward fuselage section drooped to permit crew vision during landing

The powered expendable component was 48 feet 9 inches long, with a wingspan of 23 feet 4 inches, and a gross weight of 25,303 pounds. The expendable component was to be powered by two RJ-59 ramjets, and since it was not expected to be recovered, it had no landing gear and no provisions for an extra turbojet engine.

Since a Mach 4 performance was anticipated, a stainless steel, pyro-ceramic and titanium structure was to be used to withstand the heat that was generated by flight at Mach 4. There were even some proposals for using special high-energy fuels that could make a Mach 6 performance possible.

In order to fit the entire package in the rather limited amount of space available underneath the B-58, a rather unorthodox means of interconnection between the two components had to be used. The two components were situated in such a way that the manned component was in front, the unmanned component in the rear, with the manned component being attached to the lower nose of the unmanned component

Launch range was expected to be about 2300 nautical miles. At launch, the B-58 mothership would accelerate to a speed of Mach 2, and the parasite's three ramjets would be turned on. When the ramjets were functioning at full power, the parasite would be released from the B-58 and it would accelerate to its cruising speed of Mach 4. The cruising altitude of the parasite was expected to be about 75,000 feet, but during approach to the target the aircraft would climb to 90,000 feet. During high speed cruise, a series of heat protection canopy shields entirely covered the cockpit, and the crew had to use a series of television cameras to see outside. After the mission, the expendable component was dropped off and the manned component returned to its airbase and landed under its own power.

The Super Hustler parasite proposal was never taken very seriously, was never given any Air Force funding, and quickly died on the vine. However, it was later used as the basis of Convair's FISH proposal for a surreptitious reconnaissance aircraft for the Central Intelligence Agency, where FISH stood for First Invisible Super Hustler. However the FISH concept was rejected by the Agency for a number of reasons, most of them being related to the high degree of complexity and cost that would be involved in the operation of a parasite aircraft.

The FISH concept having been abandoned, Convair was directed to work on a completely different design, one that could take off under its own power. Designated the Kingfish, the aircraft was a completely different design from the FISH proposal, and would be powered by a pair of J-58 engines. The Kingfish found itself in competition with the Lockheed A-12 for the CIA contract. When the A-12 was declared the winner, work on the Kingfish still continued for a while as a hedge against problems with the A-12. With the success of the A-12, all work on the Kingfish project was eventually abandoned.


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 Paul Suhler on the FISH project, based on interviews with Bob Widmer and recently-declassified CIA documents.

  6. E-mail from Vahe Demirjian on the meaning of the FISH name.