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The B-57 is a modified version of the English Electric Canberra which was first flown in Britain on May 13, 1949, and later produced for the Royal Air Force. After the Korean Conflict began in 1950, the USAF looked for a jet medium bomber to replace the again Douglas B-26 Invader. In 1951, the United States broke a long-standing tradition by purchasing a foreign military aircraft to be manufactured in quantity for the US Air Force. In March 1951, the USAF contracted with the Glenn L. Martin Co. to build the Canberra in the U.S. under a licensing agreement with English Electric. The Martin-built B-57 made its first flight on July 20, 1953, and when production ended in 1959, a total of 403 Canberras had been produced for the USAF.

One version, the RB-57 with greatly enlarged wings, served as a stratospheric reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft also served the Atomic Energy Commission as air samplers, monitoring foreign atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. Twenty RB-57D models were built with a wingspan increased from the original 64 to 106 feet, and two upgraded J-57 10,000 pound thrust engines. Fourteen RB-57F models were converted by General Dynamics from B-57E airframes. The wingspan was increased to 126 feet, increasing the wing surface to 2000 square feet, a larger vertical tail was installed, and the J-57 engines were upgraded to Pratt-Whitney (PW) TF100 turbofans. On 24 December 1957 a USAF RB-57 was shot down by Soviet fighters over the Black Sea, and in February 1958 and October 1959 RB-57Ds operated by the Chinese Nationalists were shot down over mainland China. On 14 December 1965 (1968 according to other accounts) an RB-57F was shot down by a SAM over the Black Sea near Odessa. The two crewmembers remained missing.

Other B-57s served as tactical aircraft in Vietnam. One very unique feature about the B-57 was its rotating bomb bay door. The bombs were loaded on the door assembly itself which would rotate completely inside the bomb bay prior to weapon release. The EB-57B electronic warfare version dispensed chaff to jam hostile radar transmissions. Other B-57s were used to tow targets and as transitional trainers for jet aircrews.


ManufacturerB-57 RB-57D
Manufacturer Glenn L. Martin Co. (English Electric)
Typebomber Recconaissance
Engine2 J65 turbojets
7,220 lbs thrust each
2 J57-P-37A turbojets,
11,000 lb thrust each
Span64 feet 106 feet [126 feet RB-57F]
Length65 feet 65 ft 6 in
Height15ft 6 in 14 ft 10 in
Loaded Weight 55,000 lb
Max Speed570 mph 582 mph at 40,000 ft
Ceiling49,000 ft 65,000 ft
Range 3,000 miles
Crew2 2
ArmamentFour 20 mm cannons or
four .50 caliber machine guns,
5,000 pounds of bombs in bomb bay,
and eight rockets on wing pylon.

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Created by John Pike
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Updated Tuesday, March 09, 1999 7:11:16 AM