North American XB-70 Valkyrie

Published: March 2nd, 2018     
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Author: Peter E. Davies Illustrators: Wiek Luijken, Adam Tooby
Reviewed by: 
Frank Landrus, IPMS# 35035
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-2503-2
Other Publication Information: Soft Bound ; 7.3” x 9.8”, 80 pages
Price: $20.00
Product / Stock #: X-PLANES 7

This is the third book in this new Osprey series authored by Peter E. Davies. The previous tomes include the Bell X-1 (1), North American X-15 (3), Bell X-2 (6), and now this book on the North American XB-170 Valkyrie (7). Peter lives in Bristol, U.K. and as authored or co-authored at least twenty books on modern American combat aircraft, many with Osprey Publishing. He was published by the Naval Institute Press in 1997 with his hardcover book, The Harrier Story, co-authored with Anthony M. Thornborough. His Schiffer Military History hard cover on the Gray Ghosts, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps F-4 Phantoms published in 2000 is considered a must have. Peter published a hardcover book with Crowood Press, North American F-100 Suber Sabre, in 2003. He has also covered many aircraft in Osprey's Combat Aircraft series, Osprey's Air Vanguard series, and Osprey's Duel series.

Adam Tooby is a rising star in the field of aviation art, creating groundbreaking photo-realistic work. Moving away from traditional approaches to the subject matter, he uses computer technology to produce both technically accurate and visually dynamic images of some of the greatest military aircraft in history.

Warbirds features stunning images of aircraft in action, from the First World War to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and from around the world, including the iconic Spitfire, the popular P-51 Mustang and the unusual Javelin. Some of the images have been produced exclusively for the book, while others have previously featured in aviation history publications and on the covers of Airfix boxes. With step-by-step sections, close-ups showing the incredible accuracy and detail of the art - down to rivets and bolts - as well as historical context, aviation enthusiasts, military historians and artists will be blown away. Check him out at http://www.adamtooby.com/.

This is Wiek Luijken's second book for Osprey, following on Duel 50: F-86 Sabre vs MiG-15 in 2013. Wiek was born and raised in the Netherlands and has been an aircraft aficionado since a child. He is currently an Art Director at Criterion Games and is based out of Guildford, United Kingdom. Check out some of his aviation art at https://www.artstation.com/kiwi123.

This is the seventh in this new Osprey series that follows the format of the previous six titles (Bell X-1, Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber, the North American X-15, and the Luftwaffe Emergency Fighters, TSR2, Bell X-2) and focuses on the technology involved in their development, test flights, and effect on future designs. This 80 glossy page book features a color cover painting by Wiek Luijken depicting Al White and Joe Cotton's flight of April 12, 1966 when the second Valkyrie flew at Mach 3.08 for twenty minutes, reaching an altitude of 72,800 feet. There are two full color, two page illustrations, along with a two page color cutaway of airframe 62-0001. I counted 29 black and white photographs, 30 color photographs, four black and white illustrations, and ten color illustrations.

One of the awe inspiring aircraft from childhood was the North American XB-70 Valkyrie. A huge aircraft, it was designed to be able to outrun any Russian aircraft and deliver its payload of weapons. It relied on an aerodynamic concept called 'compression lift'. To help make this work, the wingtips were designed to fold downwards to hold in the supersonic shock wave, generating additional lift and directional stability as the aircraft achieved Mach 3. Even with the technical explanation, the overall coolness factor was that the outer wings drooped providing an even more threatening appearance. Nearly every part of the aircraft involved new technology, which also factored into its downfall. Although a major factor was the Russian improvement in missile technology, another factor was the sheer cost of developing so much new technology in one design in a highly public and political environment. Unlike the Lockheed Blackbird that was developed in the 'black' and not subject to political review, the Valkyrie was subject to the political whims of the day. Defense cuts stopped the program except for two aircraft that were re-classified as research vehicles. The second airframe was lost in a tragic accident that had been set up for promotional concerns. That left the sole remaining XB-70 with NASA where the nearly one million dollars a flight tab shortened its life as a research vehicle. Its last flight was to the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Peter E. Davies explores the thought process that began during World War II and the impact that General Curtis LeMay had on the evolution of the heavy bomber and later, the Strategic Air Command. Chapter Two dives into the design specification and competition between North American and Boeing's proposals. The Valkyrie, once delivered, would be the fastest, most expensive, and heaviest, bomber ever built at its unveiling, and its political opponents were chomping at the bit. Up next in Chapter Three is how North American addressed the abundance of new technology that had to be implemented into the XB-70, from new metallurgy to resist the heat of Mach 3, to the unique main landing gear that weighed some six tons. Chapter Four addresses the XB-70 from roll-out and initial flight testing to the loss of the second airframe. Peter ends with the Valkyrie's short NASA career. The chapters include:

 

  • Acknowledgment
  • Chapter One: Bombs Away LeMay
    • SAC's Big Bomber Legacy
    • NEPA [ Page 11]
    • NAA XF-108 Rapier
    • Chemical Valkyrie Power
  • Chapter Two: Serpents and Spaceships
    • Decision Time
    • XB-70 Cockpit
    • Design Definition
    • Hot and Cold [Page 24]
    • Valkyrie versus the Accountants
    • Skybolt in Combat
    • RSB or Not RSB
    • Defining the Goddess
  • Chapter Three: Design and Build
    • Airframe Structure
    • NAA XB-70A 62-0001 Cutaway
    • Encapsule, Encapsulate!
    • The Office [Page 43]
    • Rear and Lower Fuselage
    • Flying Surfaces
    • Ground Support Equipment for XB-70A 62-0207
    • Serpentine Six Pack
  • Chapter Four: The Valkyrie's First Ride
    • Alvin Swauger White [Page 58]
    • Sustained Supersonics
    • Mach 3 Milestone
    • The Tip Toe Landing (Painting)
    • Valkyrie Down
  • Chapter Five: NASA and Beyond [Page 77]
  • Further Reading
  • Index

One of the topics I found fascinating was within the Chemical Valkyrie Power section. This addressed 'Project Zip' and the use of alkyl boron fuels. Boron compounds were well known for their higher efficiency over hydrocarbon fuels, but the difficulty in handling and manufacturing the alkyl boron fuels was a problem to be solved. General Electric produced a modified engine, the J93-GE-5 that could accommodate the alkylboron fuels in its after burner section and a go ahead was given by the USAF. Of course politics came to play, and eight days after the USAF approval, and with the manufacturing plants ready to produce, the program was cancelled.

Peter E. Davies provides a good introduction to the North American XB-70 Valkyrie with an easy to read style. I especially appreciated his use of first person accounts throughout the book as it puts the reader in the driver's seat. I ravaged the 80 pages in one night, staying up quite late``. If you own any of the previous releases in the X-Planes series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

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