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.
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.
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.
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.
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.