With new supersonic aircraft on the (somewhat distant) horizon and this week marking 17 years since Concorde made its last flight, the timing is right for the U.S. Air Force’s AFMC History & Heritage Program to publish its look back on the North American B-70. (Read the full story here.)
In the preamble, the report says, “Alternate concepts for the XB-70 ranged from cargo and personnel transport, supersonic tanker and reusable launch vehicle to name a few. Some topics have enjoyed brief coverage in previous publications, yet most of what you will find on the following pages came from the archives of the Air Force Materiel Command History Office, a research facility located at Wright-Patterson AFB. Our research revealed a variety of gems, many a simple mention or illustration in an obscure report while others came from archived materials supplied by the manufacturer. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into what could have been.”
Among the proposed programs: launching the RM-81 Agena rocket as a “recoverable booster,” using the B-70 to similarly launch lifting-body research vessels and even as a platform for air-launching a Minuteman II missile. The B-70 was also proposed as a new-generation transport carrying 80 passengers in a relatively luxurious 40-inch seat pitch or 107 passengers with 36 inches between the seats. Think about that the next time you’re jammed into the center seat of a high-density 737.
Two XB-70s were built and only one survives. It can be seen at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, OH.