The XB-70 Valkyrie: the gigantic bomber from the future that never was

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XB-70 Valkyrie

There are tons are cool, futuristic airplanes around, but when it comes to futuristic bombers, the XB-70 Valkyrie takes the title.  The most unbelievable thing about this insane, gigantic supersonic nuclear bomber is that it never even entered service.  Seriously, this thing is huge.

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There were only two XB-70 Valkyrie prototypes that were built before the project – originally aiming to create a nuclear bomber that could fly deep into soviet territory at both high altitude and supersonic speed – was cancelled.  The Valkyrie was meant to be that bomber: powered by six engines, it could fly faster than Mach 3 at 70000 feet – far beyond the reach of soviet fighters of the time.

What makes this crazy, futuristic plane even more impressive is that, like the SR-71, it was being designed and planned in the mid-1950’s, only a decade after World War II.

There were only two prototypes built of the North American Aviation XB-70 Valkyrie

The Valkyrie had many critics at the time, include the creator of both the SR-71 Blackbird and the U-2, Kelly Johnson.  The plan to build the plane was dead before it even left the drawing boards.

XB-70 Valkyrie

By the time May 1st of 1960 rolled around, a U-2 had been shot down in Soviet airspace, and the US Air Force had to admit that high-altitude surface-to-air missiles would be able to take down the XB-70.  After that, the intercontinental ballistic missile arrived, and it could deliver a bigger bang, faster, with no risk to human pilots.  That was the final straw for the Valkyrie.

One XB-70 was destroyed in a mid-air collision on June 8th, 1966 during a mid-air publicity photo shoot, of all things.  These following pictures were taken moments before and during the incident.

XB-70 Valkyrie
The first photo from the doomed Photoshoot
XB-70 Valkyrie
Another photo taken during the only flight of the XB-70 Valkyrie

The plane on fire is the F-104, which flew under and clipped the Valkyrie’s right wing, causing it to flip over and destroy the Valkyrie’s vertical stabilizers and left wing.  The XB-70 then spun out of control, and crashed to the ground before the pilots could eject safely.

XB-70 Valkyrie

Here is some background on that incident:

The second, and final prototype still survives to this day at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

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