Originally Posted by JohnnyS
North American B-45 Tornado?
Ding, Ding, Ding!!! Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner. The B-45 it is, JohnnyS. And, you're up. What's your question? The B-45 filled a crucial gap while the B-47 was being readied for production. And, with the reduced size of nuclear bombs, it was later capable of hauling nukes and adding to the US nuclear punch at a critical time. After that, it served as a recon platform. Thanks; Ernie P.
Answer: The B-45 Tornado Light Bomber
The North American B-45 Tornado was the United States Air Force
's first operational jet bomber
, and the first multi-jet engined bomber in the world to be refuelled in midair. The B-45 was an important part of the United States
's nuclear deterrent
for several years in the early 1950s, but was rapidly succeeded by the Boeing B-47 Stratojet
. B-45s and RB-45s served in the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command
from 1950 until 1959. It was also the first jet bomber of the NATO Alliance, which was formed in 1949.
The B-45 began development in 1944, when the War Department
, alarmed by German
jet bombers like the Arado Ar 234
, called for a new family of jet bombers grossing between 80,000 lb (36,287 kg) and 200,000 lb (90,718 kg). The North American
proposal (NA-130) won, and on September 8, 1944, the company began production of three prototypes
based on the NA-130.
The end of World War II
resulted in the cancellation of many projects and delayed many others. In 1946, rising tensions with the Soviet Union
caused the Air Force to assign higher priorities to jet bomber development and production. By mid-1946, the XB-45 and Convair XB-46
neared completion, but the Boeing XB-47
and Martin XB-48
were still two years away. The USAAF
chose to evaluate the first two designs to determine which would be superior operationally. The B-45 proved a superior design, and on January 2, 1947, a contract for immediate production of B-45As was signed. It had been planned to equip five light bomb groups and three light reconnaissance
groups with B-45As but as the B-47's development and flight testing made future production all but certain, the B-45's future became increasingly uncertain and in mid-1948 the Air Staff actually began to question the B-45's value. Soon afterwards, President Truman's
budget restraints reduced Air Force expenditure and B-45 production was reduced to total of 142 airframes. Further budget cuts in the FY 1950 forced the Aircraft and Weapons Board to cancel 51 of the 190 aircraft on order. It was later replaced by the supersonic Convair B-58 Hustler
Continuously plagued by engine problems along with numerous other minor flaws, the B-45 regained importance when the United States entered the Korean War
in 1950 and would prove its value both as a bomber and in a reconnaissance role. The mass dedication of U.S. forces to the Korean War revealed the vulnerability of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
forces in Europe to Soviet attack and it was in this light that the Air Force made an important decision about the future of the B-45. The B-45, like most post-World War II U.S. bombers, could carry both nuclear and conventional bombs. The progress of weapons technology had led to a great reduction in the weight and size of nuclear weapons in U.S. inventory, effectively allowing smaller aircraft such as the B-45 to carry out nuclear strikes, a mission which had initially been limited to heavy bombers. Suddenly, the small fleet of B-45s had great value again as a nuclear deterrent.
, sometimes called Operation Backbreaker, entailed modifications to the aircraft for nuclear missions. In addition, the 40 B-45s allocated to the program also were equipped with a new defensive system and extra fuel tanks. Despite the magnitude of the modification project, plus ongoing problems with the early jet engines, atomic-capable B-45s began reaching the United Kingdom in May 1952, and deployment of the 40 aircraft was completed in mid June. It was at about this same time that RB-45s of the 323rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron began to arrive in Japan to fly alongside the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, supplementing the WWII era piston engine RB-29s
which had proved to be easy targets for North Korean MiGs. The RB-45s would provide valuable intelligence throughout the remainder of the Korean War despite the limited number of airframes which were available. RB-45Cs flew many daylight missions until early 1952, when they were converted to night operations after an RB-45 was almost lost to a MiG-15
All 33 RB-45Cs built were assigned to the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing's 322nd, 323rd and 324th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons. The RB-45C also flew several long-range reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union
during the mid-1950s. On July 29, 1952, an RB-45C made the first non-stop Trans-Pacific flight, having been refueled twice by KB-29s along the way. Maj. Lou Carrington and his crew of the 91st Reconnaissance Wing flew from Alaska to Japan in 9hrs 50mins, winning the MacKay Trophy for their achievement. Within the 91st SRW, by 1954 the RB-45C had been replaced by the RB-47E. The phased out RB-45Cs went to the 19th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, which operated them until being withdrawn from operational use in the spring of 1958.
By the end of the 1950s all B-45s were removed from active duty service. However, a few continued to act as test aircraft into the early 1970s.
The only other nation to use the RB-45C was Britain, which were operated by an ad hoc unit of crews largely drawn from Nos. 35
squadrons. Whilst the USAF were prohibited by the President of the United States from overflying the Soviet Union unless under a state of war, allies closer to the European theatre of war might. Whilst successive Labour governments had refused, the return of Winston Churchill
and a Conservative administration to Downing Street
brought a change of options.
As a result under Operation Ju-jitsu, in July 1951 four aircraft were bailed to Britain from the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing to form a Royal Air Force
(RAF) Special Duty Flight commanded by Squadron Leader John Crampton
. Stripped of all USAF markings and then applied with RAF markings
, the four aircraft were attached to a USAF squadron based in RAF Sculthorpe
in eastern England.
The aircraft were tasked with flying deep level reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union
to gather electronic
and photographic intelligence
. The special duties flight conducted missions during the period 1952–54.
On April 17, 1952, three aircraft were tasked to head for Kiev
from Germany, scheduled to return to Sculthorpe ten hours later. Flying at 36,000 feet (11,000 m), Crampton's aircraft was tracked by ground radar and came under anti-aircraft fire. Applying full power, he immediately turned and headed for Germany, none too soon as Soviet night fighters had been dispatched to hunt down his aircraft.
Subsequent flights over the Soviet Union were carried out using English Electric Canberras
under the codename Operation Robin
, operating at higher altitudes of around 54,000 ft (16,000 m). It was not until 1994 (under the "fifty year rule
" of the Public Records Act 1958
) that the existence of the spy missions became public knowledge.