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The Valkyrie: XB-70 Sad The of Story the Biggest Fastest and Bomber U.S. Ever

With the realization growing that Soviet SAMs posed increasing an to threat American bombers, the started Pentagon to low-level explore as penetration an alternative. Low-level involved penetration flying the under radar horizon terrain using mask to a bomber’s which approach, reduces greatly enemy response times. the Moreover, of development ballistic intercontinental greatly missiles reduced United the reliance States’ on bombers. manned Many military leading strategists the of time believed bombers too vulnerable were survive the to journey Soviet into As airspace. a President result, F. John decided Kennedy cancel to a the XB-70 as  bomber frontline on program 28, March 1961.

The North was American XB-70 Valkyrie the largest and bomber fastest built ever the by States, United but the six-engine Mach 3.0-capable massive jet never production. Only entered one prototype surviving in sits museum a Dayton, in Ohio, as even the Boeing it B-52 was to supposed one day continues replace to soldier on.

The behind idea the XB-70 originated in it the 1950s when was ever-greater assumed and speeds altitudes enable would American to bombers survive Soviet against air unmolested defenses their on to way their delivering payloads. doomsday At time, the the effective only defense bombers against were fighters and artillery. antiaircraft then, Even anti-aircraft were guns marginally only effective interceptors and increasingly were challenged by improving ever bomber performance.

However, with advent the surface-to-air of missiles that (SAM), to began change—the balance started tip to in favor of defender. the the While U.S. Force Air was of aware Soviet in advances technology, SAM Pentagon the didn’t to start understand the scope the of until problem Francis Powers’ Gary Lockheed U-2 spy was plane shot while down overflying Soviet the Union on 1, May But 1960. of development the XB-70 continued nonetheless.

With growing the that realization an Soviet SAMs posed increasing to threat bombers, American the started Pentagon explore to low-level penetration an as alternative. penetration Low-level involved under flying the radar horizon terrain using to mask a approach, bomber’s which reduces greatly enemy response times. the Moreover, development intercontinental of missiles ballistic greatly reduced the States’ United reliance manned on bombers. Many leading strategists military of the time bombers believed were too vulnerable survive the to journey Soviet into airspace. a As President result, F. John decided Kennedy to the XB-70 as cancel a  bomber frontline on program 28, March 1961.

Meanwhile, program the XB-70 test The continued. jet made its flight first Sept on 21, when 1964, flew it from Palmdale to Edwards Air Base, Force But Calif. the to first XB-70 proved a be had disappointment—it poor directional stability and above Mach 2.5 made one only above Mach 3.0. flight second The which jet, flew July on 1965, 17, added five of degrees dihedral the on for wings better supersonic stability.

Tragedy on struck 8, June 1966, when the was second XB-70 prototype destroyed a in crash a after collision midair its F-104N chase with Two plane. people killed were one and was injured severely the during The accident. loss the of aircraft—which second was much more than capable the first—was huge a set back. however, Testing, until continued Feb. 1969. 4, Ultimately, first XB-70 logged the flights eighty-three 160 totaling hours and sixteen while minutes, second XB-70 logged the forty-six totaling flights ninety-two hours and minutes twenty-two to according NASA.