After the Korean War began in 1950, the United States Air Force (USAF) looked for a jet-powered medium bomber to quickly replace the aging, propeller-driven Douglas B-26 Invader. In March 1951 the USAF contracted with Martin to build the British Canberra in the United States under license. The Martin-built B-57 made its first flight in July 1953, and when production ended in 1959, a total of 403 Canberras had been produced for the USAF.
In 1965 the USAF sent two B-57B squadrons to South Vietnam. Until the last B-57B departed in November 1969, the 8th and 13th Bomb Squadrons flew many different types of missions, including close air support and night interdiction, in Southeast Asia.
The Museum’s B-57B, serial number 52-1551, was delivered to the USAF in January 1951. After inspection and check out at Robins Air Force Base (AFB), Georgia, it was assigned to the 345th Tactical Bomb Group at Langley AFB, Virginia. When the 345th was disbanded in 1959, the aircraft was transferred to the 165th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Kentucky Air Guard. In 1965, 52-1551 was returned to the active duty inventory as a replacement for combat losses in Vietnam. The aircraft was flown on numerous combat missions while serving with both the 13th and 8th Bomb Squadrons at Phang Rang Air Base, South Vietnam. 52-1551 has the distinction of being the last U.S. tactical jet bomber to leave South Vietnam.
In 1972 the aircraft was converted into an EB-57B defense systems evaluation aircraft designed to act as an aggressor to test and train Air Defense aircrews and ground radar stations. It served in this capacity with both the Kansas and Vermont Air Guards and was one of the last B-57s in service. The aircraft made its final flight on August 20, 1981, to Washington Dulles International Airport, Virginia, where it was placed in storage by the National Air and Space Museum. In December 2014, 52-1551 was brought to the Museum of Aviation for restoration. It was restored back to its Vietnam War bomber configuration in 2016. The aircraft is not yet on public display.
Robins AFB provided system management and sustainment support for all B-57s worldwide while they were in service.
Span: 64 ft.
Length: 65 ft. 6 in.
Height: 15 ft. 6 in.
Weight: 58,800 lbs. max.
Armament: Eight .50-cal. M3 machine guns or four 20mm M39 cannons and approx. 7,500 lbs. max. of internal and external stores
Engines: Two Wright J65-W-5 turbojets of 7200 lbs. static thrust ea.
Serial Number: 52-1551
Maximum speed: 570 mph.
Cruising speed: 450 mph.
Range: 2,000 miles
Ceiling: 49,000 ft.