The North American B-45 Tornado was an early American jet-powered bomber designed and manufactured by aircraft company North American Aviation.
It has the distinction of being the first operational jet bomber to enter service with the United States Air Force, as well as being the first multiengine jet bomber in the world to be refuelled in mid-air.
The first flight of the XB-45 was on February 24, 1947 from Muroc Army Air Field.
A total of 131 test flights were flown by the three prototype aircraft, one being destroyed early on, killing two pilots.
The USAF accepted one of the two surviving aircraft on July 30, 1948, the other on August 31.
One was damaged beyond repair in an accident.
The last XB-45 was delivered to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1949.
It proved excessively difficult to maintain and was relegated as a ground trainer.
The B-45A differed from the XB-45 in having improved ejection seats and communications equipment, an E-4 automatic pilot and bombing navigation radar.
The first production B-45 flew in February 1948, and the Air Force took delivery of 22 B-45s in April 1948.
Powered by J35 turbojets and not considered combat-ready, they were assigned to training duties and to conduct various test programs.
The next batch were powered by the more powerful J47 turbojets.
The first B-45As entered service in November 1948 with the 47th Bombardment Group, and the initial order of 96 was completed in March 1950.
The first B-45As were not equipped with bomb fire control systems or bombsights.
They suffered from gyrocompass failures at high speeds, unhooked bomb shackles, engine fires, and inaccurate cockpit gauges.
The AN/APQ-24 bombing and navigation radar on some B-45s was maintenance heavy, and malfunctions in the pressurization limited the altitude at which the aircraft could operate.
Fifty-five nuclear-capable B-45s arrived in the United Kingdom in 1952.
These were modified with a 1,200 gal (4,542 l) fuel tank in the aft bomb bay.
Despite technical problems, these were Tactical Air Command’s first-line deterrent in Europe.
B-45A-1, B-45A-5, B-45A, B-45C
Development model of RB-45C 48-017
The B-45C was the first multiengine jet bomber in the world to be refuelled in mid-air.
It carried two 1,200 gal (4,542 l) wingtip fuel tanks, had a strengthened canopy, and an in flight refuelling receptacle.
The first B-45C was flown on May 3, 1949.
Only 10 were built, and the remaining 33 under construction were converted to RB-45Cs.
The RB-45C was the final production variant of the B-45.
The bombardier’s canopy was faired over and replaced with an oblique camera system.
The RB-45C carried two 214 gal (810 l) external fuel tanks, or two JATO rockets.
It could carry up to 12 cameras in four positions, or a single camera with a 100 in (2.5 m) focal length lens.
The RB-45C first flew in April 1950, and was delivered from June 1950 to October 1951.
Thirty-eight were built, including the 33 converted from B-45Cs.