The futuristic XB-70A was originally conceived in the 1950s as a high-altitude, nuclear strike bomber that could fly at Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound) — any potential enemy would have been unable to defend against such a bomber.
By the early 1960s, however, new Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) threatened the survivability of high-speed, high-altitude bombers. Less costly, nuclear-armed ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) were also entering service. As a result, in 1961, the expensive B-70 bomber program was canceled before any Valkyries had been completed or flown.
Even so, the USAF bought two XB-70As to test aerodynamics, propulsion and other characteristics of large supersonic aircraft. The first XB-70A, on display here, flew in September 1964, and it achieved Mach 3 flight in October 1965. The second Valkyrie first flew in July 1965, but in June 1966, it was destroyed following an accidental mid-air collision. The third Valkyrie was not completed.
The first XB-70A airplane continued to fly and generate valuable test data in the research program until it was delivered to the US Air Force Museum in 1969.
Taken at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB), Texas in 1966 the cool photo in this post was taken during Combination Open House which had the honor of being the only public airshow in XB-70 Valkyrie history.
Although the iconic XB-70 was on display at several events at Edwards AFB, actually the Mach 3 bomber was not available to general public at Edwards but just the military according to XB-70 documents in the National Archive.
As this amazing picture shows, some of the coolest aircraft ever built took part in the airshow which was held on Mar. 24-26, 1966 in conjunction with the Air Force Association (AFA) 20th anniversary convention. However, aircraft ID captions need some work- Flight line above the hangar – Aircraft (no tag) between the F-4 and F-102 is an F-106 – Third aircraft from right is an F-106, not an F-102 Lower left – that is a YF–12A, not an SR–71 — on the lower right the aircraft is a B-26K, not an A-37 — the X-15 is a full-scale mockup — The non-captioned rocket is a Thor Able.
The North American XB-70 Valkyrie air vehicle 2 (AV/2) was the star performer at US Air Force (USAF) biggest airshow in years, making not only its first public appearance, but also its first landing away from home base of Edwards AFB, Calif. The 275-ton giant flew from Edwards to Carswell AFB, in fifty-five minutes, piloted by North American’s Al White and USAF Lt. Col. Fitzhugh Fulton. More than 350,00 people saw the 275-ton giant during three-day static display. Carswell AFB was to be the only airfield that AV/2 would fly to and return before being destroyed following an accidental mid-air collision on Jun. 8, 1966. With North American’s Al White and USAF Lt. Col. Fitzhugh Fulton at the controls, the Valkyrie spent only 13 minutes at Mach 2.6 before slowing up, winding up at 6,000 feet over Carswell AFB just 59 minutes after takeoff! For the next half hour, AV/2 thundered around the skies of Texas before landing. The return flight two days later was the only flight during the entire program where performance data was not recorded, as Cotton (in the pilot’s seat) and White flew back at subsonic speeds, taking a little over three hours to return to Edwards.
Here’s the same photo without aircraft labels.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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