Sky Defenders SD0002 USAF Convair B-58A Hustler Strategic Bomber - The Firefly," 43rd Bomb Wing, 1961 (1:250 Scale)
"Obsolete weapons do not deter."
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
The Convair B-58 Hustler was the first operational supersonic jet bomber capable of Mach 2 flight. The aircraft was developed for the United States Air Force for service in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the 1960s. Originally intended to fly at high altitudes and speeds to avoid Soviet fighters, the introduction of highly accurate Soviet surface-to-air missiles forced the B-58 into a low-level penetration role that severely limited its range and strategic value. This led to a brief operational career between 1960 and 1969. Its specialized role was succeeded by other American supersonic bombers, such as the FB-111A and the later B-1B Lancer.
The B-58 received a great deal of notoriety due to its sonic boom, which was often heard by the public as it passed overhead in supersonic flight.
Replicating The Firefly, a B-58A that, flown by the 43rd Bombardment Wing, set the New York to Paris speed record of 3:19:51 (an average speed of 1,089.36 mph) in May, 1961, this 1/250 scale, die cast Sky Defenders model features glazed cockpit windows, a fuselage-mounted payload and fuel pod, retracted landing gear, and razor-sharp, printed markings.
Pictured here is a 1:250 scale replica of a USAF Convair B-58A Hustler strategic bomber nicknamed The Firefly," that was attached to the 43rd Bomb Wing during 1961.
Release Date: January 2012
Historical Account: "Cold War Warrior" - The 43d was established on November 3rd, 1947. It conducted strategic bombardment training from, 1946-1960, and air refueling, 1949-1960, to meet Strategic Air Command's (SAC) global commitments. Wing personnel established flight records, flying two B-29s around the world in 1948 in 15 days, flying the B-50 Lucky Lady II nonstop around the world in 94 hours and 40 seconds in 1949.
Replaced the propeller-driven B-29s with new B-47E Stratojet swept-wing medium bombers in 1954, capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union. The 43d set a new jet endurance record in 1954 by keeping a B-47 airborne for 47:35 hours. Flew numerous training missions and participated in various SAC exercises and deployments with the Stratojet during the 1950s. In the late 1950s, the B-47 was considered to be reaching obsolescence, and was being phased out of SAC's strategic arsenal. The 43d began reassigning it's Stratojets to other wings as replacement aircraft beginning in 1959.
The wing converted to the Convair B-58 Hustler aircraft, the world's first supersonic bomber, in 1960. The 43d Bombardment Wing was the first USAF B-58 wing, 59-2436, the first fully operational Hustler equipped with all tactical systems, was delivered to the 43d on March 15th. On March 23rd, a test unit B-58A (55-0671), remained airborne for 18 hours 10 minutes while averaging an airspeed of 620 mph over 11,000 miles. This was apparently the longest-lasting single flight ever by a B-58. The 43d BW received deliveries of new aircraft from Convair throughout the year, the last being in December 1960.
From March 1960 to July 1961 it operated a combat crew training school for B-58 aircrews, and from July 1962 until late 1969 it served as one of two SAC B-58 wings with a strategic bombardment mission. During the 1960s the wing established world flight speed records in the B-58. For example, in May 1961, a wing B-58 flew from New York to Paris in 3 hours, 14 minutes, and 45 seconds, establishing a new transatlantic speed record of 1,089.36 mph. During a race in 1962, a wing B-58 flew from Los Angeles to New York at an average speed of 1,214.65 mph. It flew from Los Angeles to New York and back in 4 hours, 41 minutes, and 15 seconds. The 43d BW, which had been prevented from being declared combat-ready by the B-58's teething problems, was finally declared as such in August 1962. The Wing was placed on alert in September 1962.
By the mid-1960s, the B-58 had become a fairly effective weapons system. By the end of 1962, USAF crews had made over 10,500 flights and loges 53,00 hours (1150 of them supersonic, including 375 at Mach 2). Initially, all B-58 training was conducted by the 43d Combat Crew Training School. From 1960 through 1964, this unit fulfilled the requirements of both its parent 43d BW and the second B-58 wing, the 305th BW. In August 1964, the 305th activated its own CCTS. The wing also controlled an air refueling squadron from August 1964.
The active service life of the B-58 was destined to be rather short. Phaseout of the B-58 fleet was ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in December 1965, since it was felt that the high-altitude performance of the B-58 could no longer guarantee success against increasingly sophisticated Soviet air defenses.