Externally, the B-50D differed from the B-50A and B-50B only in that it had an all plastic nose and provisions for droppable wing tanks. Otherwise, the B-50D bomber greatly resembled the B 50A. A different type of equipment for in flight refueling, larger fuel capacity, more efficient radar, fewer crew members (10 instead of 11, and sometimes only 8), plus other minor improvements completed the list of changes separating the 2 bombers.
Initially flown in May 1949, the first B-50D was accepted by the Air Force on June 14. Deliveries to SAC began 10 days later, with the arrival of 1 B-50D (Serial No. 47 167).
The B-50Ds entered operational service with SAC in mid 1949, but within 3 months the new planes presented so many major maintenance problems that the command decided to refuse further deliveries and to return those B-50Ds presently assigned whenever possible to the Air Materiel Command. Some 50 B-50Ds were involved, most of which were grounded for extended periods of time during the remainder of 1949 and the first 6 months of 1950, because their main fuel cells, inverters, turbosuperchargers, alternators, generators, and even wing trailing edges carried flaws of one kind or another.
The Air Force acceptance of the last 2 B 50Ds in December 1950 marked the end of the aircraft's production. The Air Force accepted its 222 B 50Ds over a period of 19 months.
Other configurations included: DB 50D - Early in 1951, 1 B-50 was modified as a director aircraft, identified as DB-50D, and used to launch the Bell rocket powered GAM 63 Rascal missiles' By August, Air Force planning provided for the activation, sometime in 1953, of 2 squadrons of Rascal carriers, one of B 36s and another of B-50Ds, the latter squadron being programmed to operate from oversea bases because of the B-50's limited range. Adaptation of the B-50D to the DB-50D configuration was to begin in June 1952, ahead of the B-36 modification. However, Rascal deficiencies, as well as other considerations, altered these plans. The DB-50D continued flight testing the new missile until 1955, but activation of both the DB-50D and DB-36 squadrons was canceled.
KB-50 - The Air Force planned all along that a total of 134 B-50s, made up of B-50As, RB-50s, and B-50Ds, when no longer needed by the SAC atomic forces, would be converted to tankers. The proposed aircraft, referred to as KB-50s, would feature extensively reinforced outer wing panels, as well as the necessary equipment to air refuel simultaneously 3 fighter type aircraft by the probe and drogue method. The modifications, assigned to the Hayes Aircraft Corporation, also included deletion of the B-50's defensive armament and replacement of the basic aircraft's aft tail section. Although the completion date of the Hayes modifications was tentatively set for December 1957, the project (ordered in the mid fifties) proceeded so well that it was ended ahead of time. A first KB-50 flew in December, 1955 and was accepted by the Air Force in January, 1956, the tankers from then on steadily entering the operational inventory of the Tactical Air Command (TAC). By November, 1957, TAC's KB-29s, which the KB-50s replaced, had all been phased out. By year's end, all of the command's aerial refueling squadrons had their full complement of KB-50s. TAC had nothing but praise for the new tankers. The KB-50s presented no serious problems, and their reliability was such that the command considered asking for more of them. Extra KB-50s would come "cheap," TAC calculated, if additional numbers of B-50s were merely added on to the Hayes modification line. Nevertheless, the recommendation remained in limbo, which was just as well since the modification line had already been closed and the superior KB-50J was on its way. KB-50J - The Air Force tentatively endorsed the KB-50J program in mid 1956, because it believed the KB-50s of TAC's aerial tanker fleet no longer had both the speed and altitude to refuel modern jet aircraft effectively 39 The KB-50J, first flown in April 1957, was still powered by 4 Pratt & Whitney R-4360-35 piston radial engines, but featured in addition two 5,200-pound thrust General Electric J47-23 turbojet engines that were installed in pods, suspended from pylons at the former locations of the KB 50's auxiliary wing tanks.
TB-50D As in the B-50A's case, 11 B-50Ds were brought up to the trainer configuration, redesignated TB-50Ds, and used for various support duties, including the training of B-36 crews.
WB-50D Extensive corrosion of the WB-29s prompted the Air Force to decide in 1953 that some B-50Ds, as they became surplus, would be adapted for the weather role and immediately returned to SAC. There these aircraft accomplished "special weather reconnaissance" missions for the 97th Bomb Wing until April 1955, when all WB-50Ds were earmarked for the Air Weather Service.6' Meanwhile, a much larger reconfiguration program was also approved. In June 1954, the Air Force confirmed that the weather service's WB-29s would be replaced by modified B-50Ds. The modification contract, assigned to the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, included 78 B-50Ds and specified a completion deadline of November 1955.
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