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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


B-58 Record Flights

If the B-58 established itself at home as one of the most expensive and controversial weapon systems, it also attracted the world's attention as one of the most extraordinary airplanes. Actually, the B-58 broke a great many speed records (some still standing 10 years later) and won almost every major aviation award.

The aircraft's historical achievements commenced on 12 January 1961, when a B-58 of the 43d Bomb Wing set 6 international speed and payload records on a single flight, in the process breaking 5 previous records held by the Soviet Union. 'Iivo days later, another B-58 of the 43d Bomb Wing broke 3 of the records set on 12 January. The plane flew over a 620-mile closed course with similar payloads of 4,409.2 or 2,208.6 pounds and no payload at all, at an average speed of 1,284.73 miles per hour-an increase of 222.9 miles per hour. On 28 February, the crew was awarded the Thompson Trophy for 1961. This was the first time in 31 years that the trophy was awarded to a medium bomber. On 10 May, a new record for sustained speed was set by a B-58, flying 669.4 miles in 30 minutes and 45 seconds at an average speed of 1,302 miles per hour. This earned the aircraft's pilot, Maj. Elmer E. Murphy, the Aero Club of France's Bleriot Cup, a trophy named for Louis Bleriot, famous for his pre-World War I flight across the British Channel. One of the first warplanes employed by the allies during World War I bore the name of France's aviation pioneer, Louis Bleriot. The Bleriot Cup, established in 1931, was badly damaged during World War II, while in Italy's possession. Subsequently remade by the Italians, the 1,600-pound trophy had been awarded before, but only provisionally. Not until the required speed and duration marks were reached by the B-58 could the trophy be won permanently. The B-58 continued its record-setting pace on 26 May when it flew the 4,612 miles from New York to Paris in 3 hours, 19 minutes and 41 seconds. The time was almost one-tenth that taken by Charles Lindbergh in his famous solo flight of 1927. The flight of 26 May 1961 earned the B-58's 3-man crew the Mackay Trophy, a trophy first won on 9 October 1912 by Gen. "Hap" Arnold, then a young lieutenant flying a reconnaissance mission with an early version of the Wright biplane.

The B-58 had another notable year in 1962. On 5 March, a 43d Bomb Wing B-58 broke 3 speed records in a round-trip flight between New York and Los Angeles. The B-58 made the entire trip in 4 hours, 41 minutes and 14.98 seconds while averaging 1,044.46 miles per hour. Three in-flight refuelings by KC-135s were required. The entire flight earned the crew the Mackay Trophy. A part of the same flight was particularly impressive. The B-58 flew from Los Angeles to New York in 2 hours and 58.71 seconds, for an average speed of 1,214.65 miles per hour. For this the crew received the Bendix Trophy, first awarded in 1931 to Jimmy Doolittle for his 9-hour and 10-minute flight from Los Angeles to Cleveland. The B-58 closed 1962 with 2 altitude records, acquired on 18 September and worthy of the Harmon Trophy.

The B-58 set its last 5 records in 1963, all of them on 16 October. On that date, a B-58 of the 305th Bomb Wing set an official world speed record by flying 8,028 miles from Tbkyo to London in 8 hours, 35 minutes and 20.4 seconds, averaging about 938 miles per hours. Another B-58 established speed records, flying from Tbkyo to Anchorage, Alaska, and from Anchorage to London.



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