Can anyone identify this strange plane? It looks like they took wings from a bomber and put them on a fighter body... What was its purpose?

Strange plane

  • $\begingroup$ The body is not from a fighter, but from the EE. Canberra high-altitude bomber (which already had a pretty big wing to begin with) $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Oct 29, 2018 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes remember the size of aeroplanes has increased dramatically since the 1950s - the EE Canberra had a length of just under 20m, while todays fighters have similar lengths - both the F-15 and the F-22 have a length of roughly 19m. $\endgroup$
    – CalvT
    Oct 29, 2018 at 12:19

1 Answer 1


The Martin/General Dynamics RB-57F Canberra is a reconnaissance aircraft.

The RB-57F was derived from the Martin B-57 Canberra, a tactical bomber and reconnaissance aircraft built on license from the British English Electric company. With its enlarged wings and more powerful engines, the RB-57F gained extreme altitude capabilities. It can climb up to 24,000 m (80,000 ft). It was developed and built for the US Air Force. The first flight was in June 1963.

900 British and 49 Australian Canberras were built. 403 American B-57s have been produced, of which 21 have been converted to RB-57F. Some aircraft were operated by the air forces of Pakistan and Taiwan. Two RB-57F crashed on USA territory, and one aircraft was lost over the Baltic Sea. Only a few aircraft have been salvaged. Most of the RB-57Fs ended up at the AMARC bone yard (source).

The particular aircraft on the question's picture with serial number 63-13291, was converted from a B-57 in 1964 and served the US Air Force till 1974, when it was put into storage at the AMARC bone yard.

NASA WB-57F side picture source: NASA (https://acd-ext.gsfc.nasa.gov/People/Newman/wb57_pics.html)

WB-57F front picture source: NASA (https://airbornescience.nasa.gov/gallery/aircraft/WB-57_-_JSC)

Today there are still 3 planes (now called WB-57) in service for the NASA Airborne Science Program.

There is a Wikipedia article about this type.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! Interesting that (almost) everyone is familiar with the U-2 and SR-71, but probably far less people have heard about this aircraft. Probably due to the far less "glamorous" reconnaisance missions (no spying on the Soviets) and the very short service life with the USAF (only ~10 years). But very interesting trivia also: 3 of the planes are still flying, and "NASA 927 now holds the distinction of being the aircraft held the longest time (41 years) in extended storage before being returned to flight status"... $\endgroup$
    – rob74
    Oct 29, 2018 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ Near the end of the shuttle program, they used these planes to obtain tracking imagery for shuttle launches. The cameras on these guys (located in a rotating turret on the nose) have ridiculous optics and can pick out extremely clean detail from miles away. These planes also have a very distinct sound when they fly overhead (they frequently fly out of Ellington airport, near my house). $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Oct 29, 2018 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ Just thought I'd link a post about them! arstechnica.com/science/2018/11/… $\endgroup$
    – zymhan
    Nov 12, 2018 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ The base plane is an ENGLISH ELECTRIC Canberra. $\endgroup$
    – MikeB
    Jun 7, 2019 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, but that's already been mentioned in the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Jun 28, 2019 at 19:41

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