Flying Wings - The Northrop YB-35

By Willie Bodenstein

In 1941, before the USA entered World War II, Northrop and Consolidated Vultee Corporation had been commissioned to develop a large wing-only, long-range bomber designated XB-35 and XB-36. Jack Northrop, who made the flying wing the focus of his work during the 1930s, advocated a "flying wing" as a means of reducing parasitic drag and eliminating structural weight not directly responsible for producing lift.

The Northrop XB-35 and YB-35 were experimental heavy bomber aircraft developed by the Northrop Corporation for the United States Army Air Forces during and shortly after World War II. The airplane used the radical and potentially very efficient flying wing design, in which the tail section and fuselage are eliminated and all payload was carried in a thick wing. Only prototype and pre-production aircraft were built, although interest remained strong enough to warrant further development of the design as a jet bomber, under the designation YB-49.

On December 1941, the Army Air Corps awarded prototype contracts to both Northrop and Consolidated Vultee for a bomber that could carry 4,500 kg (10,000 lb) of bombs on a round-trip mission of 16,000 km (10,000 mi). Requested performance was a maximum speed of 720 km/h (450 mph), cruise speed of 443 km/h (275 mph) and a service ceiling of 14,000 m (45,000 ft). This aircraft would be able to bomb Nazi-occupied Europe in the event that Britain fell.

In June 1946, the XB-35 made its first flight, a 45-minute trip from Hawthorne, California, to Muroc Dry Lake, without incident.

Specifications (YB-35)

General characteristics
Crew: 9: pilot, copilot, bombardier, navigator, engineer, radio operator, three gunners
Length: 53 ft 1 in (16.2 m)
Wingspan: 172 ft (52.2 m)
Height: 20 ft 3 in (6.2 m)
Wing area: 4,000 ft2 (371.6 m2)
Aspect ratio: 7.4
Fuselage diameter: 9 ft 6 in (2.9 m)
Empty weight: 89,300 lb (40,590 kg)
Loaded weight: 180,000 lb (81,647 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 209,000 lb (94,802 kg)
Powerplant: 2 ◊ Pratt & Whitney R-4360-17 and 2◊ R-4360-21 Wasp Major radial engines, 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) each

Maximum speed: 393 mph (632 km/h)
Range: 8,150 mi (13,100 km)
Service ceiling: 39,700 ft (12,100 m)
Rate of climb: 625 ft/min (3.2 m/s)
Wing loading: 45 lb/ft2 (220 kg/m2)
Power/mass: 0.07 hp/lb (0.11 kW/kg)
Guns: 20 ◊ .50 in (12.7 mm) M3 Browning machine guns
Bombs: 51,070 lb (23,210 kg)

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