Osprey's North American XB-70 Valkyrie

Author:

Peter E Davis

Publisher/Distributor

Osprey Publishing

Price

$20.00 MSRP

Reviewer:

Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-2503-2

Probably one of the coolest military planes ever produced by American aerospace, the Valkyrie was a plane that, by the time it first flew, had no meaningful mission with the USAF. Sad to say, but its high and fast flying mission profile was made obsolete by Soviet surface to air missiles. Even trying to repurpose the airframe for reconnaissance was blunted by the SR-71 and its use as a possible stand-off platform was seen as not requiring an ultra-expensive mach 3 aircraft. However, that does not remove it from the imaginations of thousands of enthusiasts around the world.

North American was jazzed about winning the contract for this bomber and had to develop a number of manufacturing techniques that were new at the time, but have managed to find their way into all sorts of other areas where working with then-exotic materials such as titanium was required. To say that building the XB-70 was a challenge would be an understatement, but NAA needed the work. Fortunately for them, much of what they learned was able to be used in the B-1 program, though by then they had merged with Rockwell and even that program was not all that lucrative as only 100 planes were eventually built. But the XB-70, now that was truly an amazing effort.

It seemed like NAA was constantly fighting politicians during this time period. During its most important phase, final construction and initial flight, the US had 'Mr Multi-Purpose' McNamara as Secretary of Defense. He is the main who foisted the F-111B on the Navy, giving them a plane they did not want and eventually did little more than develop the Phoenix missile and waste millions. In fact, much of the story of the XB-70 is the political wrangling and changing of mission parameters that seems to dog every military project. Indeed, the political machinations are as fascinating as the development of the aircraft itself. The plane also provided its own issues. Brakes were never strong enough, the landing gear retraction and extension sequence could and did jam, the pilot was 30 feet in front of the nose gear and way high in the air, making ground handling troublesome and the engines were being developed along with the airframe so there were issues there. But when it flew, it was magnificent. After USAF and factory testing was over, the one remaining aircraft spent many years with NASA working on the SST program before being flown to the USAF museum, only the second time the plane's career where it did not land at Edwards AFB.

The author does a superlative job of covering the initial need for the aircraft, the challenges, both technical and political of getting the planes into the air, and their eventual use and retirement. This is all superbly illustrated with both artwork and some great period photographs. In all, a worthy addition to this series and a book I know you will enjoy reading.

February 2018

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