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In today’s instalment of the Big Reveal, we’re looking at what’s to come in our X-Planes series. 2017 has already seen two new X-Planes titles, with TSR2 and Bell X-2 still to come, but what’s in store for 2018?
North American XB-70 Valkyrie
Of the many futuristic military aircraft concepts created in the 1950s, the North American XB-70 still stands out as the most awe-inspiring. With its huge, white, partially-folding delta wing, its fuselage that resembled a striking cobra and its extraordinary performance, it was one of the foremost technological achievements of the 20th century.
A strategic bomber built to outrun any Soviet fighter jet, it could reach Mach 3 with a full nuclear payload – as fast as the legendary SR-71 Blackbird, despite being more than three times the size. However, its usefulness as a nuclear bomber was limited by the introduction of ICBMs, and the Soviet Union’s development of high-altitude surface-to-air missiles meant it was no longer invulnerable, despite its speed and ceiling. Two prototypes were built and undertook a high-speed NASA test programme in the 1960s, one being destroyed in a crash that killed former X-15 test pilot Joe Walker, before the hugely expensive project finally ended.
Bachem Ba 349 Natter
The Bachem Ba 349 Natter was Germany’s secret, vertically launched, single-seat rocket interceptor intended to offer high-speed defence of key targets. This radical aircraft, somewhat like a manned surface-to-air missile, offered the Luftwaffe an inexpensive chance to intercept and attack Allied heavy bombers with a semi-expendable machine built of wood and armed with a nose-mounted ‘honeycomb’ battery of spin-stabilised air-to-air rockets as well as cannon. Launched vertically at 36,000ft per minute, the pilot was expected to fly to within range of the enemy bombers, fire his rockets at them, ram another bomber, eject and parachute to the ground. However, the only test-launch in spring 1945 resulted in the death of the pilot, and further development was cut short by the end of the war.
This study examines this inventive but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to defend Germany against the tide of Allied aircraft that was bombing German cities into the ground.
Dornier Do 335
One of several Dornier designs to feature a push-pull power configuration, with a forward engine driving a tractor propeller and an aft engine driving a pusher, the Do 335 was conceived as a high-speed, all-weather fighter, representing the pinnacle of piston-engined aircraft design. Indeed, had jet engine technology not emerged, the Do 335 would probably have set the way forward for future development of piston-engined aircraft.
The Do 335 was a big aircraft, weighing just over 10,000kg when laden with fuel, equipment and pilot, yet powered by two Daimler-Benz DB 603 engines, it was capable of reaching a maximum speed of 750km/h at 6,400m, making it the fastest piston-engined aircraft produced in Germany during World War II.
Some 40 aircraft were built between late 1943 and the end of the war, and it was intended to deploy the type as a day fighter, bomber, night fighter, bad-weather interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft, all of which were intended to incorporate the latest armament, bomb sights, communications and radar equipment, as well as an ejector seat.
A handful were finished before the end of the war, and some Tempest and Mustang pilots claimed to have encountered Do 335s in April 1945, though without catching one.
Which of these will be joining your collection next year? Let us know in the comments section below.