RB-57D: Twenty RB57D models were built by Martin Aircraft sporting a wing
now lengthened from the original 64 to 106 feet. The added high lift with two upgraded
J-57 10,000 pound thrust engines only required partial throttle and 2000 feet of
runway for takeoff. In 15 minutes at a 25 degree climb, the "spy in the sky
plane" was at 50,000 feet. It would continue to a mission altitude up to 67,000 feet
out of the range of Russian MIGs.
However, the lightweight honeycombed wing was
its undoing. After several wing failures in the air and on the ground, the RB57D was
relegated to a role as a nuclear weapons detonation air sampler. Later, it was converted
to ECM capability and pitted against our high altitude interceptors.
RB-57D with detection pods under
the wings sniffs the air near a stateside nuclear test.
Click the drawings to enlarge
I was a design draftsman
on the Canberra from June 1952 till March 1957, then
served two years in the US Army Corp of Engineers, Fort
Leonard Wood, Missouri. Most of my work was on the
B model, the RB model, the Tow Target model, Ship 76,
and the D model. One of my most memorable projects was
designing the blanketing of the wheel well cavities on
the D model to prevent the tires from freezing at high
altitude. I was given the job after another
designer's design failed, and became the material
wrapped around the landing gear on landing. I
worked with a man in the fabric shop, and we came up
with a design that involved vinyl covered fiberglass
mats that were screwed via screwnuts into the various
fittings, bulkheads, and frames in the wheelwell.
I also liaised with engine people. Warm
air was bled from the engine exhaust into the wheelwells
to help keep the temperatures up. It worked
B57E: In May, 1963, the B-57E became operational in Vietnam as a
reconnaissance aircraft under the classified "Patricia Lynn" project.
The short-wing returned and for eight years the bulge-nosed camera-packed
platform sported the latest in electronic surveillance equipment. Its primary function was
to locate North Vietnamese (NVN) and Viet Cong (VC) concentrations and night supply
movements in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
In 1970, the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) credited "Detachment
1" RB57s at Tan Son Nhut AB with providing more than 94 % of the battlefield
RB57F: Fourteen RB57F models were converted by General Dynamics using the
main framework of the B-57E. The wingspan was nearly doubled to 126 feet with the wing
area more than double. The J-57 engines were upgraded to Pratt-Whitney (PW) TF33-P11A
turbofans. The "all wing and engine" RB57F then strapped on two air-start GE J60-P-9 turbojets. Using a strengthened honeycombed skin on the flight surfaces and doubling the area of the vertical fin,
the aircraft hardly resembled its British Canberra predecessor. (Photo: Robert Mikesh) The RB57F was re-designated the WB-57 with the 58th Recon Squadron at Kirkland AFB, NM and served the Atomic Energy Commission
(AEC) and NASA as air samplers. Wherever there was suspected or known atmospheric nuclear weapons testing from Germany to Australia to Japan to the South Pacific, there, too, was the WB57F.
I was asst crew chief on a RB57F, from 1966 to 1967. Then I went
into phase inspection(100Hr), where I tore them apart on a daily
basis. We had 3, tail numbers were 501 or 301, changed each
mission to complicate picture takers. This was Yokota AB , Fussa
Machi Japan. Our mission was Top Secret, is it
I had the rare opportunity to fly back seat on a four hour local
mission, we stayed low,around 70,000, and played hard, the
ASTRONAUT who flew was cool. I could tell you stories that you
probably wouldn't believe. Our mission was threefold, Air
Weather Service, Manned satellite in Orbit, and of course,
Nuclear Monitoring of some places that unless declassified, I
shouldn't talk about.
What a bird!, Weights in rear had to be changed with each
mission according to weight. The J- 60s Outboard, sometimes had
to be turned off manually; I launched one and didn't pick it
back up for three days. WAS A WORLD RECORD, but as was
classified no one but a few knew about it.
Strapped in ready to go at Pago Pago.
(Pilot Capt. Philip K. Dunn)
Lt. Col. USAF (Retired)
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