Most RB-57Fs were modified RB-57Ds even though a few B-57Bs were brought up to the same configuration. The modification, endorsed in the early sixties, was accomplished by the General Dynamics Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas. The first RB-57F flew in April 1964 and was accepted by the Air Force 2 months later. Still, it took until March 1967 to complete the last aircraft-a 2 year delay. The 16 aircraft project also proved to be much more expensive than expected. Each modified plane carried a price tag of $9 million-airframe, $5,958,530; engines (installed), $562,500; electronics, 1,573,750 others, $925,000.
Moreover, some RB-57Fs, equipped for long range oblique photography, cost an additional $1.5 million for a unit cost close to $10.6 million. But the RB-57F, funded under a very special project, turned out to be an exceptional plane. Equipped with 2 Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-11A engines and 2 auxiliary J60-P-9s, the 2 seat (pilot, plus navigator or special equipment operator) RB-57F had a service ceiling of 68,500 feet, a cruising range of 3,690 nautical miles, a cruise endurance of 9.7 hours, and a cruising speed of 420 knots. Yet, the RB-57F's average cost per flying hour was only $886; the average maintenance cost, $407. Two RB-57Fs were allocated to the United States Air Forces in Europe and 2 others went to the Pacific Air Forces. The remaining 12 RB-57Fs were at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, where they served with the 58th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the Military Air Transport Service (The Military Air Transport Service, responsible for furnishing rapid airlift for the armed forces of the United States and its allies throughout the world since June 1948, was renamed the Military Airlift Command on 1 January 1966.). These RB-57Fs were used to support Atomic Energy Commission and the Air Force Technical Applications Center's requirements until they were redesignated as WB-57Fs.
Fourteen RB-57F models were converted by General Dynamics from B-57E airframes. The wingspan was increased to 126 feet, increasing the wing surface to 2000 square feet, a larger vertical tail was installed, and the J-57 engines were upgraded to Pratt-Whitney (PW) TF100 turbofans.
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