Cold War Era

Impressive video shows USAF Museum XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 bomber being pushed outside for gallery redesign last October

On Oct. 6, 2020 the North American XB-70 Valkyrie was pushed outside for a day as part of a gallery redesign in the museum’s fourth building.

Brought to my attention by Giuseppe Volpicelli, a reader of The Aviation Geek Club, the impressive video in this post was taken on Oct. 6, 2020 and features the North American XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 bomber belonging to the National Museum of the US Air Force being pushed outside for a day as part of a gallery redesign in the museum’s fourth building.

The XB-70A, built by the North American Aviation (NAA) Los Angeles Division for the US Air Force (USAF), was an experimental high-speed, delta-wing aircraft designed to fly at three times the speed of sound and higher than 70,000 feet (21,000 kilometers).

On Sep. 21, 1964, 5,000 employees and guests at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., watched as NAA Chief Pilot Alvin White and USAF copilot Joseph Cotton took the graceful six-engine giant up for its first flight. It was the culmination of an effort that began in 1954, when both Boeing and NAA submitted designs for the Air Force Weapon System 110A competition, and on Dec. 23, 1957, NAA won the competition.

However, federal budget cutbacks and advances in Soviet air defenses resulted in an emphasis on less expensive and theoretically more survivable intercontinental ballistic missiles as the mainstay of US nuclear forces. On Apr. 10, 1961, the Air Force cut back the B-70 to a research program, and only two of the aircraft would be built. A second Valkyrie, the XB-70A-2, flew on Jul. 17, 1965.

With a maximum takeoff weight of 542,000 pounds (245,847 kilograms), the XB-70 remains the largest and heaviest airplane ever to fly at Mach 3. A rugged landing gear, weighing more than 6 tons (5.4 tonnes) and consisting of 2 tons (1.8 tonnes) of wheels, tires and brakes supported the XB-70 on the ground. Each main gear had four wheels and the nose gear two. In a single stop, the XB-70 absorbed kinetic energy equivalent to that used to stop 800 medium-sized automobiles from a speed of about 100 mph (61 kph).

On Jun. 8, 1966, an accident during a photo flight took the lives of two pilots and destroyed two airplanes—the XB-70A-2 and an F-104 that had been captured by the Valkyrie’s vortex wake.

The surviving Valkyrie, XB-70A-1, continued to fly for NASA testing the flight regime of a supersonic transport and was later added to the collection at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, on Feb. 4, 1969.

Video by the NMUSAF Public Affairs Division-Ken LaRock.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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