Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Valkyrie Coming

After the last few posts on North American Aviation's B-25 Mitchells, it seemed appropriate to jump to this press release wirephoto of what was arguably North American's technological apex: the XB-70 Valkyrie. It was a mere 25 years from the inception of the B-25 program to the first flight of the XB-70, but the two aircraft represent an almost unfathomable leap in technology (for comparison, it's been 15 years from the inception of the JSF program to where we are in just flight test for the F-35 family).

For those who think that the political controversies over the F-22 and F-35 programs are something new, the XB-70 program is testament that they aren't. The Valkyrie efforts were an on-again-off-again see-saw. NAA got the go-ahead to build the plane in 1959, then it was scaled back, accelerated, and then cancelled, with the prototypes redesignated as research aircraft. Two XB-70s were completed and flown, with a third (a YB-70, actually) cancelled while under construction.

The caption for today's 1964 image reads: "PALMDALE, CALIF., May 10 -- CONTROVERSIAL BOMBER TO MAKE BOW -- The XB70A bomber, subject of many controversies during the past several years, is pictured in its hangar at Palmdale, Calif., where it will be rolled out into the open for the first time Monday. Only two or three of the 2000-mile-an-hour planes will be built as a result of a cutdown on the program ordered by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara."

The St. Petersburg Times, when they used an image, would typically glue a copy of the actual newspaper edition to the back of the file copy, to show that it ran. This photo has none, so presumably it wasn't published, at least by that paper.

Incidently, if you look closely at the roof structure in this recent Global Hawk rollout photo, you'll recognize that the hangar which saw the birth of the XB-70 continues to see new planes develop!

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