Seventy-four years ago, Captain Charles Yeager of the U.S. Air Force became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. Once that barrier was broken, modern aviation took off, pun intended. These are some of the Air Force’s supersonic jets.


The First Supersonic Jet

On October 14, Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 was dropped from a B-29, rocketing away at over Mach 1. The Bell X-1 was an experimental jet, purpose-built to attempt speeds unheard of till that point. As such, it was not a production craft or a regular part of the Air Force’s inventory. The X-1 relied on another aircraft to get it to altitude, then basically fired rocket motors to reach speed. Though it had landing gear, flight controls, and working engines, the jet was not meant to take off from the ground.


The Subsequent Supersonic Explosion

After the Bell X-1, the USAF was eager to expand the supersonic might of its forces. To that end, numerous supersonic bombers and fighters began to appear.


Supersonic Bombers

Convair B-58 Hustler

Convair B-58A Hustler
United States Air Force Convair B-58A Hustler in flight. (Public Domain)

The Convair was designed in the 50s, first flown in 1956, and entered operational service in 1960. The Hustler was just short of 100 ft long and had a wingspan of just under 60 ft. In terms of power, four GE J79-GE-5A turbojet engines provided 15,000-foot pounds of force with afterburners. The jet had a cruise speed of 610mph and could reach Mach 2, or 1,300 mph at 40,000 feet all while carrying a max bomb load of 19,450 lbs. The last Convair Hustler was retired in 1970.