Watch the World's Last XB-70 Super Bomber Leave Its Hangar

Kyle Mizokami
·2-min read

From Popular Mechanics

In October, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force needed to perform work on one of its storage hangars, which necessitated moving the world’s only remaining XB-70 Valkyrie supersonic bomber from its permanent roost.

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The bomber, towed into the sunlight on a bright Ohio day, looks like it could take to the skies today—more than 50 years after it was canceled by the Pentagon.

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The museum towed the plane out of its indoor space so workers could adjust some adjacent displays, The Aviationist reports. Workers hitched the XB-70 bomber to an airplane tractor and slowly rolled it outside on its own wheels.

Photo credit: Hulton Deutsch - Getty Images
Photo credit: Hulton Deutsch - Getty Images

The XB-70 Valkyrie was a high-altitude, super-fast strategic bomber designed to swiftly penetrate Soviet airspace in the event of a nuclear war. The bomber flew at an altitude of 70,000 feet as a defense against enemy surface-to-air missiles, and its six engines gave it a top speed of Mach 3.1.

The XB-70’s unique shape and adjustable wingtips allowed the plane to “‘ride’ its own shockwave”, as NASA puts it, “much like a surfer rides a wave”.

Photo credit: Ralph Crane - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ralph Crane - Getty Images

The Pentagon ultimately canceled the XB-70 due to several factors. The plane proved expensive and technically difficult to develop, and advances in Soviet air defenses made it unlikely that the plane’s “high and fast” penetration tactic would keep the big bomber safe.

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Subsequent advances in stealth technology meant that future bombers, including the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit, would adopt a “low-and-slow” strategy, flying around enemy defenses while masking themselves from radar.

Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images

All in all, the two XB-70 prototypes achieved a total of 1 hour and 48 minutes of Mach 3 flight. One of the two aircraft was lost in a midair collision with a chase plane in 1966. After the program’s cancelation, the remaining Valkyrie became a research test plane and later consigned to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. After a temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum is currently open to visitors.

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