RB / WB-57F

56th WRS  / 58th WRS

The RB-57F was the result of an Air Force request for a high altitude reconnaissance aircraft with better performance than the RB-57D. Because General Dynamics was responsible for contract maintenance on the -D model, the USAF asked for a conversion proposal for the new aircraft which was to become the RB-57F.

A prototype conversion contract was awarded in the fall of 1962 and the first aircraft made its first flight on 23 June 1963.

 

The RB-57F design incorporated many major changes. The first was the greatly enlarged wing. The wing had a span of more than 122 feet; 14 feet more than the RB-57D and nearly double that of a B-57B. The second obvious change was the replacement of the Wright J65 turbojets with Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbofan engines. The TF33s gave the aircraft more than double the thrust of the -B model.

The RB-57F was also capable of being fitted with two Pratt & Whitney J60 turbojets which were mounted in pods and could be attached to the wings outboard of the TF33s. These auxiliary engines were only for use at altitude, in fact, they were not equipped with starters and had to be air started while the aircraft was in flight. At altitudes above 40,000 feet, the J60s generated about 3,300 lbs. of thrust each and increased the maximum altitude of the RB-57F by 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

The size of the tail was also greatly increased. The height of the vertical stabilizer was increased to 19 feet and combined with an increase in the width doubled the area of the stabilizer which was necessary for yaw control at very high altitudes (up to 80,000 ft.).

The electronics Systems were also updated on the -F model. The nose of the aircraft was lengthened to house sophisticated navigational equipment along with sensitive detection devices for gathering electronic/signal intelligence. The wings had four hard points various camera and air sampling pods could be mounted when the J60 engine pods were removed.

A total of 21 aircraft were modified by General Dynamics to the RB-57F configuration: 3 RB-57As, 14 B-57Bs and 4 RB-57Ds. Because of the extensive changes incorporated into the -F model, the aircraft were given new 1963 serial numbers as they were completed. Most of the -F models operated by the US Air Force was assigned as weather reconnaissance aircraft and used in part to measure radiation levels after above ground nuclear weapons tests conducted by other countries.
9th

WEATHER

RECONNAISSANCE

WING

  58th

WEATHER

RECONNAISSANCE

SQUADRON

     
A user of the WB-57F was the 58th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Kirtland AFB, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who received their first aircraft in 1964.

These Canberra's were deployed throughout the world where there was suspected atmospheric testing of nuclear devices to sample the upper atmosphere for nuclear debris.

     
58th WRS RB-57F at KWAJALEIN
 
  58th WRS RB-57F
Joe Putman  
 

RB-57F Pilots 1969

 

Alaska Deployment Joe Breem

 

 

 


 

Due to a poor material selection, the long wings of the WB-57Fs started showing stress corrosion cracks after a few short years of service. It was decided to replace the wing spar and ribs with a different type of aluminium, but it was not financially feasible to replace the entire fleet, and nine planes were sent to storage. Shortly thereafter, the 58th WRS deactivated their remaining planes in 1974, ending a long era of the Canberras military service.

However, shortly before this in 1968, NASA had contracted with the Air Force to operate an RB-57F, which flew many research missions as part of the Earth Resources Technology Satellite program. In 1972, the Air Force thought the expense was too high, and transferred the plane to NASA. This aircraft was re-numbered NASA 925. This plane operated until 1982, when it was retired. It currently resides in the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona. WB-57  serial number 63-13295 was removed from Davis Monthan AMARG ( 3
09th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.) For  restoration in Colorado. It will be re-designated NASA 927 and flown to Texas when completed.
 
 
Project Airstream was a continuation of Stardust/HASP except that RB-57F/WB-57F aircraft were employed and sampling missions were limited to one per season, 3 or 4 missions per year. The aircraft were flown by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the direction of the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.

Initially samples were collected in a track from 75 N to 51 S. Missions were flown from Eielson AFB (64 40'N, 147 06'W); Kirtland AFB (35 03'N, 106 36'W); Albrook AFB (08 57'N); and Mendoza AFB (32 49'S, 68 47'W). In July 1977, flights in the southern hemisphere were ceased

 

 
Tom Barrett
Thanks to Tom Barrett and Gerald Tremmel
 
 
AIR WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE ASSOCIATION
 
RB-57F  PROJECTS / MISSIONS
 
NASA WB-57

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