Britain’s English Electric Canberra was so successful that the US Air Force immediately selected the aircraft after the failure of the Martin XB-51. Used as a bomber-interdictor and a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, the American-built B-57 saw service in Vietnam, attacking the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It went on to operate into the 1980s as a target tug, weather research and electronic warfare machine.
When US Air Force officers saw a Canberra demonstrated in 1949, their approval was immediate. The aircraft had great flexibility, good range, superb performance at height (in excess of most fighters of the day) and a potent bombload.
Martin built the aircraft in lieu of its failed XB-51, but the first example delivered was a British B.Mk 2. The original B-57As were manufactured almost exactly to this standard by Martin. A reconnaissance version, the RB-57A, was very similar to the ‘A’ model. Other versions produced were the B-57B night-raider’ bomber, which had a tandem cockpit, and the B-57C trainer and B-57E target tug.
The B-57 went to war in the mid 1960s in Vietnam, chiefly flying interdiction missions over the delta and border areas and the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Finally, the RB-57D, with a long-span wing, was built.
Unlike the British Canberras, most B-57s had tandem cockpits. Equipment varied widely, with target towing controls, ECM displays and extra radios for forward air control fitted.
Although the B-57 could carry a heavy load in its bomb-bay, additional armament could be carried under its large wings.