Valkyrie goes 100 miles in three minutes – 03 Jan 1966

I got a cool wall calendar for Christmas, and it has a bit of aeronautical trivia for each day. The factoid for January 3rd is:

XB-70 flew for three minutes at 2,000 mph.

I’ve long wanted to do a big XB-70 write-up, but it’s one of those things I’ve never got around to. Someday.

Meanwhile, here’s some eye candy:

NASA’s caption:

The X-15A-2 with drop tanks and ablative coating is shown parked on the NASA ramp in front of the XB-70. These aircraft represent two different approaches to flight research. The X-15 was a research airplane in the purest sense, whereas the XB-70 was an experimental bomber intended for production but diverted to research when production was cancelled by changes in the Department of Defense’s offensive doctrine.

The X-15A-2 had been modified from its original configuration with a longer fuselage and drop tanks. To protect it against aerodynamic heating, researchers had coated it with an ablative coating covered by a layer of white paint. These changes allowed the X-15A-2 to reach a maximum speed of Mach 6.7, although it could be sustained for only a brief period.

The XB-70, by contrast, was designed for prolonged high-altitude cruise flight at Mach 3. The aircraft’s striking shape–with a long forward fuselage, canards, a large delta wing, twin fins, and a box-like engine bay–allowed it to ride its own Mach 3 shockwave, so to speak. A joint NASA-Air Force program used the aircraft to collect data in support of the U.S supersonic transport (SST) program, which never came to fruition because of environmental concerns.

Murdoc’s caption? Simply


That’s a lot of miles per hour sitting on the ramp, there. (More NASA pics and videos here.)


  1. If you go to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, you can see the XB-70. She’s a thing of beauty.

  2. The XB-70 featured in AWST’s claims that the military had an operational spaceplane in the nineties. The Valkyrie worked like Rutan’s White Knight, carrying the orbiter up to high altitude. Link:

  3. BH: Thanks! I hadn’t really followed the whole Blackstar bit this spring and didn’t see that the XB-70 was involved.

  4. The XB-70 was a beautiful bird. Tis a pity that it was killed before its time. Toss in some modern computer handling and some modern engines and she would make the basis of a fine bomber.

  5. Dwayne Day is a bimbo. The real article regarding Blackstar said that the air breathing first stage was XB-70 like, not an XB-70. I worked for Boeing at their Kent Space Center in those days. I didn’t know they were building this thing (obviously), but I was very aware of the research behind it. We talked about it all the time. There were many comments made critical of NASA’s ALS program, which was based around methods of making conventional rockets cheaper. It was a funded exercise in futility made even more insane by the existence of this air breathing first stage scheme: On Oct. 14, 1986, Boeing filed a U.S. patent application for an advanced two-stage space transportation system. Patent No. 4,802,639, awarded on Feb. 7, 1989, details how a small orbiter could be air-dropped from the belly of a large delta-winged carrier at Mach 3.3 and 103,800-ft. altitude. The space plane would be boosted into orbit by its own propulsion system, perform an intended mission, then glide back to a horizontal landing. Although drawings of aircraft plan forms in the Boeing patent differ from those of the Blackstar vehicles spotted at several USAF bases, the concepts are strikingly similar. The Valkyre was not a pure success. They mounted the canards too high on the fuselage to get any benefit from the vortex lift they could have provided. Also, I don’t think the compression lift scheme worked as well as they hoped given that there isn’t a huge amount of that kind of lift available at Mach 3. Even so, it is well worth a pilgrimage to Dayton, OH to see. I only wish they’d build a platform where you could get high enough to give you a decent look at the bird (maybe they have since I was there last, it’s been a while). Once I was past the B-52 I found myself looking around for the XB-70 while I bumped my butt against its nose gear. We are long overdue for a Mach 3 bomber. Make it out of stainless steel with a signature reducing shape and we’d have one wicked war machine.