Convair stated in 1957 that it could adapt an MB-1C pod to accommodate five people beneath a B-58 and provide some initial experience with commercial supersonic travel, but not proposing a large SST of the sort that Lockheed and North Americans were considering
The B-58 Hustler was designed in the late 1940s, a time when the motto “faster and higher” served as the inspiration for the majority of military aircraft designs. It embodied the idea that a bomber could overcome harsh enemy defenses simply by having a lot of power and speed. A bomber that could avoid interception, get to its target quickly, and disable the enemy’s offensive capability was required due to the nuclear threat.
Convair created the first supersonic strategic bomber and, aside from the North American XB-70, the noisiest aircraft in the world by pushing the boundaries of technology and employing 10 years of experience in the construction of delta-wing aircraft. It could maintain a speed of 1000 mph for several hours while being mostly automatically piloted and controlled by a fighter-type control column.
In the mid-1950s, when maximum airspeeds were increasing almost annually, there was a determined effort made by the US aerospace industry to create a supersonic transport aircraft (SST). As explained by Peter E Davies in his book B-58 Hustler Units, because of the Hustler’s spectacular top speed of Mach 2.2, Convair felt that the company’s lead in creating the first relatively large supersonic vehicle should be converted into a civil transport initiative.
Convair first suggested in 1957 that it could adapt an MB-1C pod to take five passengers beneath a B-58 and provide some initial experience of commercial supersonic travel, even though it did not propose a large SST of the size that Lockheed and North Americans were considering. Additionally, it was believed that this experiment may advance the concept of quick transportation for crucial military personnel.
Convair then put forth the CV-58-9, an expanded Hustler-based design with four non-afterburning J58 engines from the B-58C, a B-58 wing, and a fuselage that could carry 52 passengers at Mach 2.4. The Anglo-French Concorde, for which basic design studies had started in 1956, would have been quicker than the CV-58-9, which was first conceptualized in 1960 and may have entered service as early as 1964.
When the American SST program received the official go-ahead in April 1961, BAC and Sud Aviation had already completed Concorde designs, using a slender delta wing that originated from prototype work with the Handley Page HP.115 research aircraft, and some of the data generated by the Convair XF-92A program — the latter had, of course, contributed to B-58 development. SST was developed in reaction to the possible threat Concorde posed to the US aviation industry, and it resulted in design contracts for Lockheed and Boeing, whose Mach 2.8 Model 2707 was chosen for further development. The CV-58-9 from Convair was not a contender.
It is conceivable that America’s unfavorable experiences with supersonic booms, primarily caused by B-58 flights, may have contributed to the US Congress’s decision to withdraw support for the SST in 1971, which was attributed in large part to the overland supersonic flight’s negative environmental effects. The Hustler was known for being the loudest airplane ever built by that point. In reality, the supersonic flights of the B-58As were usually restricted to a 1000-mile overwater route between Mobile, Alabama, and a point off the coast of Texas near Corpus Christi.
B-58 Hustler Units is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.
Photo by U.S. Air Force