The Insane XB-70 Valkyrie: The Most Incredible Airplane Ever Built
During the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union were the top two countries in the world when it came to developing experimental military aircraft.
In the event of a nuclear war, both sides understood the importance of having fast and powerful strike options at their disposal, and while missiles would play a crucial role, aircraft would be just as important. Quick, nuclear-capable bombers were nothing new to either the Americans or the Russians. Some of these bizarre machines, however, never even got airborne or past the testing phase
The incredible XB-70 Valkyrie is one example of such a plane developed by the United States. The original model of this monstrously terrifying plane was designed to bomb the Soviet Union and enemy territory at Mach 3 while carrying a nuclear payload in addition to conventional weapons.
The XB-70 later became a research aircraft before the project was canceled entirely in the late 1960s, with only two of these jets ever built, one of which met an untimely end. Herein is chronicled the tragic downfall of an American suicide bomber.
Generation of the XB-70
The United States Air Force planned for the XB-70 to serve as the basis for the development of the B-70, a nuclear-capable bomber. The XB-70 was a six-engine aircraft that could reach altitudes of up to 70,000 feet and reached a maximum speed of 2,056 miles per hour (or Mach 3.1), with a cruising speed of Mach 3.0 (or 2,000 miles per hour). The plan was to build a bomber capable of Mach 3 flight throughout the entire mission, protecting it from Soviet anti-air missiles and, hopefully, fighter jets as well.
However, at the time, fast bombers were thought to be vulnerable only to anti-aircraft artillery and fighters. It was hoped that the B-70 would be safe from Soviet interference. In 1964, the XB-70 made its maiden flight, which proved to be a success.
A new generation of Soviet surface-to-air missiles had been developed and put into use by the 1960s, however, so the aircraft never made it past the development stage or its construction phase. Since the B-58 was a supersonic bomber, it was hoped that the B-70 would eventually replace it. On the other hand, neither of those things happened.
Mistakes at the ground level of science
The XB-70 was found to be up to four times faster than the B-52 at supersonic speeds. Even though the XB-70’s Mach 3 capability would leave the B-58 Hustler in the dust, the XB-52 and B-58 were both in danger from Soviet missiles. The B-70 had many advocates in the government and the air force, so converting it to a low-altitude bomber was a possible solution to keeping the project alive.
At low altitudes, however, the XB-70 offered only a slight improvement over the B-52. To top it all off, a low-level B-70 would require a lot more fuel and be much more expensive to maintain, so it’s not even worth considering. The B-70 bomber project was therefore cancelled in 1962, well before the first flight in 1964. Fortunately, the two experimental aircraft were requisitioned for testing large supersonic aircraft-related aerodynamics, propulsion, and other technologies.
Misfortune of the Second Valkyrie
The United States Air Force was initially responsible for the research program, but in 1966, the Air Force and NASA began working together on a program to better quantify the impact and characteristics of sonic booms. Meanwhile, the SR-71 Blackbird, the B-1 bomber, and the Tupolev TU-144 supersonic airliner would all make use of data from the earlier program.
Tupolev, being a Soviet company, naturally relied on espionage for all of its information. The first XB-70 could only reach a top speed of Mach 2.5, but the second aircraft was significantly improved over its predecessor in many ways. The situation, however, quickly deteriorated into chaos.
An F-104 Starfighter crashed into the second XB-70 during a photo shoot organized by General Electric, killing everyone on board. Joe Walker perished instantly when his Starfighter was sucked into the Valkyrie’s structure, where it flipped upside down over its vertical stabilizers and sustained damage to its left wing before bursting into flames.
For about 16 seconds, the XB-70 flew straight, but then it began a fatal spin. The co-pilot, Carl Cross, was killed, and the pilot, Al White, ejected from the aircraft but suffered serious injuries due to the aircraft’s novel escape capsule.
Preserve and Exhibit
The first plane wasn’t able to perform at the required levels, so the remaining Valkyrie research couldn’t be finished. On February 4, 1969, the last XB-70 took to the air for the last time, flying from its home base at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Since then, she has risen to prominence as an iconic representation of one of the most outlandish aircraft DIY efforts in history. a memorial to those who perished while attempting to reach Mach 3, this plane was one of very few of its kind. There will never be another plane quite like it.