Manufacturer's Model 272
Previous Model Series RB-57A
The RB-57A preceded the B-57B in the USAF inventory, but the B-model was the B-57's first production bomber as well as the major inventory model.
The most significant change featured by the B-57B was an entirely new design of the cockpit area. The reconfiguration placed the navigatorbombardier behind the pilot under a large bubble canopy similar to that of the T-33 (The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star was an all metal, full cantilever low wing, 2 seat, high performance aircraft used by the Air Force for the training of flight personnel). This arrangement improved visibility, afforded more space for the installation of equipment, and conformed to the Air Force-preferred tandem type of seating. Specifically, the B-57B pilot's seat was on the fuselage centerline. The navigator's back seat was slightly offset left of the center line to provide room for the Shoran receiver-indicator and the Swedish-designed -1 toss-bomb computer unit. The B-57B also introduced a flatplate wind-shield allowing the installation of a gun sight, external wing pylons, improved defrosting, and fuselage dive brakes. The wing pylons mounted high-velocity aircraft rockets or bombs. Beginning with the 91st B-57B production, the eight .50-caliber forward-firing wing guns, first seen on the B-57A test aircraft, were replaced by 4 -39 20-millimeter guns.
The B-57B development took shape in early 1952, when Air Materiel Command and Air Research and Development Command acknowledged the unacceptable deficiencies of the B-57A configuration. In March, they jointly presented the current problems to Air Force Headquarters. And as early as 17 April, the 2 commands gave the Air Council a list of minimum but mandatory changes for ensuring production of a sound airplane. Although not relinquishing production control, the Board of Senior Officers did endorse most of the proposed modifications.
The B-57B production became official on 11 August 1952, concurrent with the B-57A's virtual demise.
The B-57B mockup was officially inspected on 2 October 1952. Of primary interest was the new cockpit arrangement and the single blister canopy. Deletion of the Shoran equipment, to provide space for a new type of radar, was discussed but not adopted..
Letter Contract AF 32(038)-22617 of March 1951 called for the production of 250 B-57s but was amended several times. In August of the same year, the number of B-57s on order stood at 209; in February 1952, at 177. On 11 August 1952, total procurement remained at 177, but 102 B-57Bs were substituted for 70 B-57As and for 32 RB-57As. The first follow-on fiscal year 1953 contract began with Letter Contract AF 33(600)-22208, which was issued 19 September 1952 and covered the additional procurement of 119 B-57Bs. An amendment on 18 December raised the FY 53 B-57B procurement to 191, bringing the cumulative B-57B future production to 293. This total, however, did not materialize. Affected by changes almost from the start, the B-57 program was revamped many times over. In some cases, obsolescence was the governing factor. On other occasions, special or ever-increasing operational requirements were the cause.
Although frowned upon, the revision of production schedules was seldom avoidable. In August 1952, completion of the 177 B/RB-57s then on order was pushed back to August 1954, a date which proved highly optimistic. Also, Martin's production peak rate was reduced from 50 to 17 airplanes per month. The Air Force thought the B-57B would benefit from a slower production tempo. Still, it did not expect to wait until May 1956 for its full complement of new bombers-almost 3 years past the deadline set by the Board of Senior Officers back in 1951. Such complications, the program changes occurring during the interim years, and the new production schedules generated by such changes all proved costly. In the end, the B-57B's average unit price was double that first negotiated.
The Air Force finalized Letter Contract AF-33(038)-22617 in August 1953. Changes in quantity, type of airplane, and configuration explained the protracted negotiation period, and the contractor's hard bargaining played a part. Besides higher profits, Martin wanted to be amply protected against subcontractor failure and cost increase. The definitive contract was a fixed price incentive type, with reset. Martin received a 7.5 percent profit, with 80/20 sharing of increase or decrease of target cost, and a 120 percent ceiling independent of the subcontract costs. It took another year for the Air Force and Martin to agree on the amounts of firm target cost. By then, major subcontractor failings had upped the billing for the first 75 aircraft by $63 million. The target cost negotiations for the remainder of the aircraft under the same contract dragged on until April 1955. It was 1958 before the contract was completely closed out.
Change-over to the B-57B cockpit set back production several months in 1953. Replacements of the aircraft's .50-caliber machine guns with better guns entailed airframe alteration and considerable wing modification, for which new tools were needed. Nevertheless, from the start, the most far-reaching production problem was Kaiser's failure to deliver B-57 wings on schedule. Martin asked for permission to cancel the Kaiser contract but was allowed to withdraw only part of it. The Air Force pointed to the exorbitant cost of dropping Kaiser, in money as well as time. In any case, Kaiser's difficulties could be traced to poor management, but the subcontractor still remained well-qualified to do the work. For that matter, Martin also posted a good record manufacturing the special bomb-bay doors pulled back from Kaiser. Yet, later events showed that the Martin engineering capacity could be overtaxed. In the long run, the price increase of the first 90 aircraft was chiefly due to the Kaiser muddle. Still, other alternatives undoubtedly would have been more expensive.
The B-57B program, set at 293 aircraft, was reduced by 91. In early 1954, the Air Force pared the FY 53 B-57B procurement to 158 (a 33-aircraft cutback) and dropped the tentative purchase of 50 more B-57Bs. In the spring, 38 B-57Bs were canceled in favor of producing an equal number of B-57 dual-control trainers. A final change, a few months later, diverted 20 B-57Bs to the B-57D program of 1953. These aircraft were subsequently redesignated RB-57Ds.
Following the B-57B's first flight on June 18, 1954, a few aircraft were delivered to the flight test center at Edwards AFB.
B-57Bs were assigned to 2 Tactical Air Command light bombardment wings in late 1954 and early 1955. The 3-squadron wings in time received 18 aircraft per squadron-16 B-57Bs and 2 B-57 dual-control trainers. The initial recipient was the 424th Bomb Wing, Light, at Langley AFB. The 461st Wing, Blytheville AFB, Arkansas, acquired its first B-57B on 5 January 1955.
Like the RB-57As, the B-57Bs prior to delivery suffered from engine malfunctions that filled the cockpit with toxic fumes. Following delivery, new engine problems required the grounding of B/RB-57s. Inspection of the engine compressor (the culprit) and lifting of the grounding order afforded short relief. Difficulties with the aircraft's stabilizer control system triggered another grounding in February 1955. The B-57Bs were released for flight the following month, but were restricted to a maximum speed of 250 knots pending modification of the horizontal stabilizer and the installation of a different stabilizer trim switch-yet to be accomplished by mid-year.
Fourteen of the first B-57Bs accepted by the Air Force never received the Garden Gate modification that was implemented on the production line. These planes were assigned permanently to testing, a program that started inauspiciously. Already delayed by Martin's production slippages, testing was continuously interrupted because the 14 test-bombers shared the deficiencies, groundings, and flight restrictions of other B-57Bs. Hence, an operational suitability test, conducted by the Air Proving Ground Command, was not completed on schedule. To make things worse, in February 1955 the command's interim test report generally confirmed TAC's expectations. After incomplete investigation, Air Proving Ground Command pointed out that the B-57B appeared in no way to satisfy the night intruder and close support requirements that had generated its production. The command gave several good reasons for its pessimism. The B-57B's target acquisition system was inadequate, the navigational range was too short, and the radio navigation could not recover the aircraft after strikes. The new bomber's armament also was deficient, the gun-bomb-rocket sight, the gun charging systems, and the external stores release being unreliable. Even the long-awaited -39 guns could not be fired safely because the cartridge links hit the wing undersides. Moreover, the B-57Bs so far received still had no anti-icing and de-icing equipment. Nonetheless, the proving ground command tentatively concluded that the B-57B showed the potential of becoming an effective fighting machine. However, besides correction of the aircraft's present flaws, this would require the addition of proper internal equipment. Another obvious must was to increase range, which had shrunk in proportion to the aircraft's weight increase. It would cost too much to modify the B-57 for air refueling, but there were other means to extend range. In principle, this had been taken care of in June 1954, with a purchase order for 54 external fuel tanks of the kind used by the old B-26s. Years later, however, TAC still experienced difficulties in getting enough long range ferry tanks for the B-57s of its Composite Air Strike Force.
Once underway, B-57B deliveries were almost uninterrupted. Thus, in 1955 two oversea light bombardment wings were equipped with B-57Bs. The 38th Bomb Wing, Light, at Laon AB, France, was the first, beginning in June. The other, the 3d Bomb Wing, Light, at Johnson AB in Japan, followed late in the year.
B-57B deployments, whether at home or overseas, did not signify that the Air Force was unaware of or accepted the aircraft's shortcomings underlined in the Air Proving Ground Command's interim operational suitability test report. In fact, these deficiencies were amply confirmed in the spring of 1955, when the AMC's Inspector General rated the new bomber nearly as low as the obsolete B-26 it was to replace. But the B-57B as received was quite flyable. The Air Force knew that, unlike the B-47, the aircraft could go directly to the tactical units and not make an immediate turn-around to a modification center. Moreover, money was scarce. The Air Force wanted to see how the faster B-66 fared, before endorsing a costly B-57 improvement program. Also, new equipment (radar, navigational, and other electronic systems) was either in short supply or still in the development or early production stages. In any event, the B-57's longitudinal control and stabilizer systems would be modified. But this could be postponed temporarily because, should the Air Force decide on other improvements, it would be cheaper to do all the work at once. Meanwhile, enforced (and not so unusual) flight restrictions would continue to ensure the aircraft's safety.
In September 1955 the Air Force decided to bring the B-57 to tactical standards. To this end, it organized a 3-phase combat readiness program. Phase I installed the low-altitude bombing system (LABS), the AN/APS-54 Radar Search, and the ALE-2 Chaff Dispenser. Phase II added the M-1 Toss Bomb Computer as well as the AN/APG-31 Tie-in-Equipment. This phase also involved so-called Class IV and V modifications to the longitudinal control and stabilizer systems and to the fuel control panels and special weapon bomb-bay doors. Phase III dealt with the AN/APN-59 Radar Beacon and a number of tentative engineering change proposals. Planning its 3-phase program carefully, the Air Force directed that it should be carried out by USAF personnel and contractor teams during the normal inspection and repair of each plane, as necessary. Some of the work was to be done at the Martin plant and some at the Warner Robins Air Materiel Area in Georgia. Like most planning, these arrangements were affected by circumstances. For example, modification schedules were altered by changes in programming and B-57 utilization. On occasion, Phases I and II were lumped together. Sometimes there were delays. The AN/APN-59's Phase III installation did not materialize. A Martin subcontract with the Swedish Airlines Services in Copenhagen, covering the modification of 55 United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) B-57s, was amended. The change decreased the number of aircraft involved by 20. Late in 1956, special USAFE requirements prompted TAC to part with 15 reworked B-5711s. These aircraft, no longer under flying restrictions, remained on loan overseas while an equivalent number of USAFE B-57Bs underwent similar modifications. As for the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) B-57s, they were modified at the Kawasaki plant at Gifu in Japan. Air Force personnel and teams from Land-Air, Inc. (another Martin subcontractor) handled the modification. The same Land-Air teams also helped in the United States. Even so, a great deal remained to be done in late 1957, as the aircraft's phaseout already appeared on the horizon.
Production ended in May 1956 with the delivery of the last 2 B-57Bs.
The Air Force accepted a peak number of 27 B-57s in June 1955-18 B-57Bs and 9 B-57Cs.
The Air Force accepted 123 B-57Bs in FY 55, and 79 in FY 56.
The flyaway cost per production aircraft was $1.26 million-Airframe, $852,973; engines (installed), $257,529; electronics, $49,032; ordnance, $16,090; armament and others, $88,738.
The average cost per flying hour for a B-57B was $511.00.
As programmed, TAC phaseout of its B-57B/C aircraft was fast. Started in April 1958, it was completed on 23 June 1959. To some extent, TAC deplored its loss. Despite limited speed, short range, and other deficiencies, the B-57B had become a proven weapon system presenting few maintenance problems. A PACAF request for retention of its own B-57s fared better, and 2 squadrons remained at Johnson AFB, Japan, until 1965. These B-57 units, the 8th and 13th Bomber Squadrons, Tactical, then moved to Clark AB, in the Philippines for possible action in Southeast Asia. Small numbers of the aircraft soon flew missions from Bien Hoa and Da Nang Air Bases in South Vietnam. Combat attrition, accidents, and old age took their toll of the aircraft. Forthcoming Tropic Moon requirements also did not help, forcing PACAF to inactivate its last squadron in 1968. But this did not really spell the B-57B's end. As already noted, TAC reactivated the 13th Bombardment Squadron, Tactical, to fly reconfigured B-57B and B-57C aircraft. Known as B-57Gs, these planes stayed in Southeast Asia until 12 April 1972. Having been stripped of most of their Topic Moon components, the B-57Gs went to the Air National Guard-like many of TAC's B-57Bs in the late fifties. The Guard flew the B-57Bs, that had been modified for reconnaissance, until 1966. However, its newly acquired B-57s were scheduled for storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in early 1974.
One B-57B was extensively modified for Operation Red Wing, a special weapons test held in the Pacific in 1956. Tb save time and money, the plane was modified while on the production line. Martin later restored this Red Wing B-57B to its regular configuration.
Six B-57Bs were modified during August .and September 1956 to perform sampler roles in the Red Wing tests. In December 1957 four additional B-57Bs were also modified to monitor the type and rate of radioactive fallout in the upper atmosphere after a nuclear blast. Following completion of the Red Wing tests, these planes were all allocated to the Air Force Special Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
In late 1957, ten B-57Bs were modified under Project Stardust. This modification removed all armament equipment from the aircraft, but put in the latest flying instruments. These modified B-57Bs were used by highranking officers for proficiency flying and transportation.
More than 50 B-57Bs, re-fitted with less-sophisticated components, were delivered to Pakistan under the auspices of the Military Assistance Program.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|