September 18, 1963: Canberra Aircraft Arrive for Project PEE WEE

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The first of two Air Force Logistics Command RB-57Fs arrived at the Flight Test Center for performance, stability, and control evaluation as part of Project Pee Wee. The aircraft were B-57s modified for high altitude operations with much larger wings, stabilizer and rudder, TF-33 engines, and two additional J-60 engines mounted on below-wing pods. They were officially designated as test beds for high altitude weather research, and for environmental studies on high altitude navigation equipment.

The Martin/General Dynamics RB-57F Canberra was a specialized strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed in the 1960s for the United States Air Force by General Dynamics from the Martin B-57 Canberra tactical bomber, which itself was a license-built version of the English Electric Canberra. It was operationally assigned to the Air Weather Service for weather reconnaissance involving high-altitude atmospheric sampling and radiation detection in support of nuclear test monitoring, but four of the 21 modified aircraft performed solely as strategic reconnaissance platforms in Japan and Germany.

Three of the modified aircraft were destroyed with loss of their crews while performing operationally. The remainder were re-designated WB-57F in 1968. Four of the survivors were subsequently used by NASA for high-altitude atmospheric research. The others were retired from 1972 to 1974 and placed in storage.

As of 2015, three WB-57Fs are the only B-57 aircraft model still flying, in service with NASA