B-58 Hustler Units Book Review

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B-58 Hustler Units

By Peter E. Davis, illustrated by Jim Laurier

Osprey Combat Aircraft Series Book 130

Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated, 30 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing October 2019

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472836405

ISBN-13: 978-1472836403

Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.3 x 9.8 inches

Unlike the vast majority of volumes in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft Series and despite the title, B-58 Hustler Units has very little to do with the units and more to do with the design of the aircraft.

The first chapter deals with the history and development of the delta wing planform in general.  This traces the history back to the work of Alexander Lippisch and the many subsequent American designs that used this configuration.  It was nice to see Richard Whitcomb’s discovery of the Area Rule phenomenon give recognition as well.

The next few chapters discuss the design of the Convair B-58 and describe in detail the specific systems incorporated into the aircraft.  The design of the novel fuel / payload pod is a unique solution to the aircraft’s lack of internal volume.  The discussion of the problems of crew ejection at supersonic speeds and the development of the cramped capsules to deal with the issue are enlightening.

It is not until approximately two-thirds of the way through the book that we see the first B-58s assigned to SAC Bomb Wings.  Even there, much of the writing is concerned with describing SAC’s strategic plans and operating procedures.

The B-58 Hustler served in relatively small numbers and was operational for less than a decade.  No B-58 ever saw combat, so it is not surprising that the setting of various speed records constitutes the most notable incidents in the type’s history.  Personally, I enjoy reading about the technical issues the engineering teams had to solve to get the aircraft into service.  Don’t be misled by the title however, the book has much more to do with the design and operational doctrine of the aircraft than a history of the units which flew them.  Still very interesting and a good read.

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Mach Cones and Other Supersonic Goodness

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Some of the more spectacular aviation photographs are of jets breaking the sound barrier.  Often the pressure variation causes the moisture in the air to condense making the Mach cone visible.  This is similar to but different than the vapor clouds often seen forming around aircraft at airshows as they maneuver.  Most of these pictures are taken at sea as there are prohibitions against aircraft breaking the sound barrier over the continental U.S.  Here an F/A-18F goes transonic.
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An F/A-18C Hornet, from the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, breaks the sound barrier while making a high-speed pass close to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during an air power demonstration. Many of these fly-bys were performed for service members’ family and friends who were invited to get underway with the ship. There are no Mach restrictions on the open ocean, so U.S. Navy aircraft are often the subjects.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ron Reeves, taken 24AUG07)
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An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 breaks the sound barrier over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans, taken 31MAY11)
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An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The Stennis was participating in Northern Edge 2009, a joint exercise focusing on detecting and tracking units at sea, in the air and on land. The Raptor is forming condensation within its wingtip vortexes along with a Mach cone.  (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett, taken 22JUN09)
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A Navy F/A-18F with a Mach cone visible is also showing another compressibility effect in its jet exhaust, known as a shock diamonds.  These are formed as the pressure fluctuations within the engine’s supersonic exhaust plume cause unburned fuel to combust.
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A beautiful photograph of an SR-71 displaying a series of shock diamonds in its exhaust.
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Using special photographic techniques, NASA was recently able to record the formation and interactions of the shock waves formed around two T-38s for the first time.  The photograph was taken earlier this year on 22FEB19.
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Spacecraft also experience Mach effects, and often adjust their thrust to minimize vibrations until they reach altitudes where the atmosphere is thinner.  Space Shuttles went transonic approximately 45 seconds after launch.  Here is the Atlantis mission STS-106 on 08SEP00 with the shock wave forming a rainbow effect.
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An even more spectacular phenomenon was caused by the Solar Dynamics Observatory launch on 11FEB10.  During this mission the shock waves interacted with ice crystals in the atmosphere and formed ripples as they passed.  A Mach cone is also visible at the nose of the rocket.