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A Look Back… NAA B-70 Valkyrie Variants – A Future That Never Was…

  • Published
  • By Tony R. Landis
  • Air Force Materiel Command History Office

Like flying cars, human colonies on Mars and so many other futuristic ideas, the 1950’s vision of the tomorrow was filled with grand ideas that are just now coming to fruition. 

As expected, aircraft engineers of the time had similar visions as they began taking their ideas from their minds, placing them on paper, then asking manufactures to bend steel and other exotic materials to create the planes of the future. Engineers hoped that one vehicle, one that they perceived as the last manned bomber, could change the future of aerial bombardment. 

Yet, politics, money, and technological advancements put an end to the B-70 Valkyrie, a Mach 3+, nuclear-capable super-bomber.  Those varying factors 'killed the dream' even before the first vehicle rolled out of the North American Aviation assembly plant.

The story of North American Aviation’s masterpiece is well documented. Published works such as ‘The Manned Missile’ by Ed Rees; ‘North American XB-70’ by Steve Pace; ‘XB-70 Valkyrie: The Ride to Valhalla’ by Jeannette Remak and Joe Ventolo, Jr; and ‘Valkyrie: North American’s Mach 3 Superbomber’s by Dennis Jenkins cover the development of this vehicle in very good detail. Often overlooked is the potential that military and civilian designers had envisioned for this aircraft prior to cancellation.

Alternate concepts for the XB-70 ranged from cargo and personnel transport, supersonic tanker and reusable launch vehicle to name a few.  Some topics have enjoyed brief coverage in previous publications, yet most of what you will find resides in the archives of the Air Force Materiel Command History Office, a research facility located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.  Research revealed a variety of gems in these archives, many a simple mention or illustration in an obscure report while others came from archived materials supplied by the manufacturer. 

This "Look Back..."  provides just a small glimpse into the minds of designers and engineers during the 1960’s of what the future of aerospace just might entail. Though none of these proposals saw fruition, they quite possibly sparked the imaginations of future designers and engineers. This is a brief glimpse into what "could have been."

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