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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

B-57E Canberra

Manufacturer's Model 272E

Previous Model Series RB-57D

The 2-man (pilot and tow-target operator) B-57E featured a hydraulic power-boosted rudder (to improve directional stability) and target launching equipment. The B-57E differed externally from the dual-control B-57C in that it carried 2 target canisters (located on the lower rear fuselage), a modified tail cone, 2 rotating beacons, and a larger tail skid. The E-model had no armament and no bombing equipment, but either could be added without difficulty. The tow-target B-57E could easily be brought to the configuration of the B-57B bomber, because its target containers, internal cable reels and fittings, as well as cockpit towing controls were removable.

In March of 1954, the Air Force asked the AMC to issue requirements for a modified B-57 that would be capable of acting as a tow-target aircraft and, like its predecessors, be suitable for rapid conversion to an operational bomber. The dual-control tow-target B-57 was expected to carry 4 tow reels and 4 banner targets per mission.

Although the Air Force was eager to replace its tow-target versions of the B-26 and B-45 airplanes, a firm decision on the B-57E program was not reached until January 1955. A number of factors accounted for the delay. Martin was slow in submitting specifications for the new configuration, and protracted program decisions as to quantities and types of airplanes did not help.

The last major B-57 contract-AF 33(600)-29645-was initiated under the fiscal year 1955 procurement program by a letter contract, signed on 21 February 1955. Contract negotiations started with a requirement for 68 B-57Es and 26 B-57Cs, but this order was subsequently canceled. This prompted a new round of negotiations and postponed signature of the definitive contract to 8 December-half-way through fiscal year 1956. To avoid a costly break in production scheduling (estimated at $16 million), previous programs were stretched. This raised the cost of the fiscal year 1955 program by $1.5 million (a comparatively low-cost alternative) and lowered Kaiser's workload, giving the wing subcontractor a chance to finally catch up.

Martin first flew successfully a production B-57E with tow targets on May 16, 1956, the first aircraft built for the Air Force specifically for this type of duty. The target launchers of 2 modified dual-control B-57Cs, used by Martin as B-57E prototypes, failed to work during earlier flights in April of the same year. But eventually, these problems were solved, and the 2 aircraft joined the B-57E fleet.

In July of 1956 the Air Force canceled Strategic Air Command's requirement for conversion of 7 B-57E aircraft to the TRB-57E configuration. The Air Staff decided that, as planned, all but 4 of the 68 B-57Es would go to the Air Defense Command. The 4 exceptions, B-57Es without tow-target equipment, were allocated to the Air Force Flight Test School.

A few B-57Es began reaching Air Defense Command in August and 18 more were delivered in September. However, Air Force Flight Test School did not receive its first aircraft until 24 October, and additional deliveries lagged behind schedule.

Because it started late, the B-57E program was accompanied by short deadlines and hurried production orders, all of which could spell trouble. But the program actually benefitted from an odd combination of events. Already engrossed in the RB-57D program in February 1955, when the B-57E letter contract started, Martin found itself short of 600 engineers and of necessity subcontracted a good bit of the B-57E engineering. This turned out well. Hudson Motors was made responsible for the tow-target installation; Kaiser received an extension of its subcontract for the E wings; and excess parts, built by Martin for the high priority RB-57Ds, were transferred to the B-57E program. Nonetheless, there were a few setbacks. Late deliveries of government-furnished equipment, difficulties in getting the tow reel system to work with the B-57E without excessive airframe modifications, and other equipment problems held up the program for a time. Yet, much of the backlog was eliminated by the end of 1956. In the long run, the B-57E program's overall slippage did not exceed 1 month-a most rewarding accomplishment.

Production ended in early 1957, and the last B-57E was delivered in March.

A total of 68 B-57Es were accepted.

The Air Force accepted 2 B-57Es in FY 56 both in May 1956. All others were accepted in FY 57 beginning in August 1956 and ending in March 1957.

The Flyaway Cost Per Production Aircraft was $1.01 million-Airframe, $847,534; engines (installed), $125,756; electronics, $22,377; others, $21,433.

Rather than buying more B-57Es, the Air Force converted B-57Bs to the tow-target configuration. Some of these B-57Bs (such as those allocated in 1958 to TAC's 1st Tow Target Squadron) came from USAFE, where they had received so-called "hard usage" modifications. Before undertaking their towing missions, these aircraft needed much more than modification. Fortunately, Warner Robins Air Materiel Area was able to do most of this work. The 1st Tow Target Squadron flew its newly acquired aircraft for several years, transferring the last 14 to Air Defense Command on 1 July 1962. This marked the end of the B-57 weapon system in the TAC inventory.

In the mid sixties, all B-57Es (converted B-57Bs included) were equipped with the external AF/A372-1 tow target system.

B-57E productions as well as B-57Bs converted to the E configuration underwent changes throughout the years. The Air Force at times used a few of these aircraft for training modifying, adding equipment, and referring to the planes as TB-57Es. Many B-57Es, regardless of their origin, became RB-57Es after modification and the addition of reconnaissance equipment. Some of these planes still served in Southeast Asia in mid 1966, even though they were beginning to show signs of fatigue. The most gratifying change (from the economical standpoint) put electronic countermeasures equipment in the planes, which were redesignated EB-57Es. The sophisticated but relatively inexpensive EB-57Es, with a unit price of $2.02 million (electronic countermeasures equipment and modification costs included), provided electronic countermeasures targets to ground and airborne radar systems. In mid 1973, the Air Force active inventory counted an almost equal number of reconnaissance or electronic countermeasures equipped B-57Es (19 RB-57Es and 23 EB-57Es), but the EB-57Es were expected to outlast every B 57 version.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:35:15 ZULU