B-35/B-49 Cancellation: Setting the record straight

ACResearcher

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In a recent thread on Horten Flying Wings, Justo Miranda shared some pages from his book "The Ultimate Flying Wings of the Luftwaffe". These pages discussed the application of "stealth" technologies to both submarines and aircraft. At the end of the selected pages are two paragraphs where he states that the B-49 project was cancelled due to its disappearance from radar screens with a subsequent effort to fool the Russians by cancelling the wings and substituting dead-end projects on saucer-shaped aircraft. I don't research German aircraft and don't have much in the way of documents, so I cannot really make much comment there however many questions I may have about supportive documentation to the statements made.

The Northrop Flying Wing commentary, however, is a different story.

First, however, we need to examine the use of the term "stealth". "Stealth" has absolutely no applicability when discussing any aircraft of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The concept did not exist as we understand and use it today. Thus, while you can talk about sonar-absorbent materials on U-boats and lower radar cross-sections on some aircraft, it is not "stealth". The Mosquito and Ho 229 had lower cross-sections, but the Mossie certainly showed up on radar and the Ho 229 would have as well due to the big hunks of metal involved in the engines and guns and the Ho 229's metal internal framework. The model Ho 229 built and tested in the U.S. in recent years did not have any metal in it, as I recall, so tests made with radar are at least incomplete. Wood certainly is radar-transparent. Aluminum and steel are not.

Some rather stunning assertions were made about the Flying Wings and program being ended as a result of a 1947 "...unexplained disappearance from a radar screen of a gigantic bomber Northrop YB-49...", followed by the claim that the "Flying Saucers" projects such as the Avro were substituted to throw the Soviets off. He then suggests that the Soviet reverse-engineering of the B-29 and subsequent manufacturing of the Tu-4 copy was an end result of this entire process. The result is a hodge-podge of incorrect, conflicting and unsupported claims. If anything the fact that the Wing disappeared on a radar screen would, in fact, have been a logical and compelling reason to build the aircraft in mass quantities - had it been able to do the job.

Beginning with the B-29, the first Tu-4 flew in May, 1947, and almost immediately thereafter went into production. The reverse engineering process began in 1944 with the landing of at least four B-29s in Russian territory. The Soviet Union had previously requested B-29s via Lend-Lease on several occasions but were turned down in each case. Thus when the opportunity to dismantle, measure, test and redesign the most advanced production bomber in the world at the time came available Stalin literally pursued it with a vengeance. The Flying Wing had absolutely nothing to do with it.

In the meantime, there is a huge amount of clarification that needs doing.

The B-35 was designed in the early 1940s, based on the understanding of combat needs and available weapons of the time, the largest being the 4000lb bomb. By the time the B-35 actually flew most of that had changed. Piston-engine aircraft were rapidly becoming dinosaurs, enough so that a letter was issued by the Material Division in 1944 suggesting that no new bomber projects be undertaken until it could be determined how the "turbine engine" (including both turboprops and jets) would work out and what impact that would have on design. Putting jet engines in the B-35 was not the solution, either. The aircraft was not stressed for the higher speeds and thrust of jet engines. Even with the lower-thrust J-35 it was just not built to take it. The jet-powered B-49 was redlined at 500mph, at least 100mph slower than the B-47 which would soon be reaching full production. Test pilot Max Stanley flew the B-49 to 550mph at least once, and in doing so encountered aileron reversal.

In addition, the B-35 was built around the specific fuel consumption characteristics of the R-4360. The J-35 jet engine's fuel consumption was some four times that of the R-4360, dramatically limiting range. To put ANY jet engine into the Flying Wing would have required a major redesign of the aircraft that would have taken years to work out. The thickness of the Wing and the fuel-consumption of the jet engines reduced the B-49's capabilities to that of the medium bomber category where the B-47 - which also first flew in 1947 - was far superior in all aspects.

Finally, one is doomed if he ignores the post-war political and economic situation as it applied to military projects. The U.S. was dramatically cutting back on the size of its military while at the same time in a transitional time from piston engines to jets in almost all categories of aircraft. The USAF wanted a 70 Group force. They got 48. This meant that in many cases they made do with what they had or with variations on a theme such as the B-50 and, once the shortfalls and been corrected, the B-36. The USAF was placing the majority of its emphasis on medium and long-range bombers capable of dropping nuclear weapons on the enemy. Remember that this was the era of SAC. The Flying Wing just simply had no place in the post-war Air Force, especially with a far-superior advanced aircraft like the B-47 about to debut. The ultimate decision to cancel the Flying Wing was made by officers studying the current and future needs of a smaller Air Force moving to jets and large intercontinental bombers powered either by turboprops or jet engines. Had the B-36 not already been in production and the introduction of the jet pods not taken care of both speed and altitude deficiencies it undoubtedly would have been cancelled, too, as was discussed after the B-36As were produced.

Had the Soviets wanted to build a flying wing bomber they certainly had the capability to do so. Instead they built the Tu-4, which, as you recall, was flying by May, 1947. The B-35/49 project was not killed because of any super-secret plan to throw off the Soviets. Unless Mr. Miranda can produce specific original-source USAF and government documents showing that to be the case it must be placed in the waste can of interesting but baseless speculation.

The B-35 was essentially killed by the failure of GFE (Government Furnished Equipment) to be delivered that could solve a variety of issues, one the most important failing being a lack of gearboxes and propellers that worked for the counter-rotating props. Before any of those problems could be dealt with the switch was on to jets and that has already been addressed.

The simple fact is that the Flying Wings, no matter how sexy, had been bypassed by technology and budgetary considerations. They couldn't do the job for which they had originally been designed and just weren't needed.

And THAT, not some unsubstantiated plan to fool the Soviets, is what killed the Northrop Flying Wings.
 

mz

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Thick wing and not much fuel - bad for high speed and jet engines.

I think these kind of discussions are very interesting. Usual aircraft histories concentrate really little on the whys and hows, they just state the speed and capabilities.
 

Sundog

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mz said:
Thick wing and not much fuel - bad for high speed and jet engines.

I think these kind of discussions are very interesting. Usual aircraft histories concentrate really little on the whys and hows, they just state the speed and capabilities.


Yes it's speed limit was mainly due to how much drag that thick airfoil developed. Also, the stability problems were cured for the most part by the automatic stabilization system (Developed by Sperry?) for the YRB-49. But the promising performance of the B-47, as stated by ACR, made the YRB-49 irrelevant.


Also, while what the Horton brothers accomplished was remarkable, it wasn't anywhere near as remarkable as what Northrop actually did accomplish with regard to flying wings. Of course, this was mainly due to the resources available. While I enjoy many of the "Luft 46" designs, because they look so cool, many of them would have been duds, just as many of the "US'46" designs were. Oh, you guys don't remember those? It's because they didn't stay on paper, they were built and flown. The XP-54, XP-55, XP-56, and XP-67 for starters. However, our zwilling fighter, the F-82, was a rather good design even if technology outstripped it and it didn't get engines that were near as reliable as they needed to be. Just saying.
 

ACResearcher

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The fact that the YB-49 disappeared from the radar screen is, as you've shown, a previously known fact. However, even then such "disappearance" would only briefly occur and that at very specific angles of attack to the specific radar source.

However, your statements about the end of the Flying Wing because of this occurrence need serious verification via original source documentation. I will be glad to examine any such documentation you may have and print an appropriate retraction if needed, also sharing it with the retired Northrop engineers with whom I have contact. I chose not to share those specific responses as they were, shall we say, "highly and colorfully negative".

In the meantime, the reasons you state for cancellation remain the wildest and most unsubstantiated assertions.

AlanG
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Agreed with Alan. There are no "conspiracy theories" needed to explain why the B-35/B-49 were cancelled, its very much a matter of public record.
 

Justo Miranda

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ACResearcher said:
The fact that the YB-49 disappeared from the radar screen is, as you've shown, a previously known fact. However, even then such "disappearance" would only briefly occur and that at very specific angles of attack to the specific radar source.

However, your statements about the end of the Flying Wing because of this occurrence need serious verification via original source documentation. I will be glad to examine any such documentation you may have and print an appropriate retraction if needed, also sharing it with the retired Northrop engineers with whom I have contact. I chose not to share those specific responses as they were, shall we say, "highly and colorfully negative".

In the meantime, the reasons you state for cancellation remain the wildest and most unsubstantiated assertions.



Well, if you think that the statement of test pilot Lt. Col. J.J. Quinn, on the stealth characteristics of the YB-49, are not consistent and prefer the version of the Northrop engineers, I may assume that you will apply the same type of discrimination to any other evidence or reasoning that contradict your opinion.
I believe it does not make sense to prolong this debate. However, would you publish a book about the subject, I will gladly read it.


AlanG


Well, if you think that the statement of test pilot Lt. Col. J.J. Quinn, on the stealth characteristics of the YB-49, are not consistent and prefer the version of the Northrop engineers, I may assume that you will apply the same type of discrimination to any other evidence or reasoning that contradict your opinion.
I believe it does not make sense to prolong this debate. However, would you publish a book about the subject, I will gladly read it.
 

Justo Miranda

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
Agreed with Alan. There are no "conspiracy theories" needed to explain why the B-35/B-49 were cancelled, its very much a matter of public record.


I am also against conspiracy theories, Paul. Please read my opinion on page USN004, line 9, page 21 of my book.
As for Northrop, I also do not believe on the involvement of W. Stuart Symington for being too obvious.
 

ACResearcher

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Thank you for sharing three FICTIONAL stories in the Horten thread. However, fiction is not the basis for historical fact.

If one is to be considered a serious historian, he/she must be willing to provide facts to support claims. My "comments and opinions", as you have called them, are verifiable historical facts based solidly on original source documentary evidence and qualified retired Northrop engineering personnel who were not only present during much of the time in question but are frankly considered to be experts in the field of the Northrop Flying Wings.

Speculation is perfectly acceptable as long as it is LABELED as speculation and facts are provided as a basis. To put anything in print of any form that does not have the support of history removes one from consideration as a credible historian and moves him/her to the area of interesting fiction. Doing otherwise is a disservice to all those who trust us to provide actual TRUTH to them in their efforts to grow more educated on these topics. As for Mr. Quinn's observations on the "stealth" qualities of the YB-49, trying to take today's concept of stealth and applying to 1947 is like applying the turbine engine to the Model T.

Once again, provide copies of the original source documentation and I shall be more than happy to add it to my 30 years of study on the Northrop Flying Wings and state publically that I was wrong. The same goes for the misuse of the term "stealth" and oblique references to W. Stuart Symington.

Facts. Facts. Facts. Don't claim it, prove it.

AlanG
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Justo Miranda said:
ACResearcher said:
The fact that the YB-49 disappeared from the radar screen is, as you've shown, a previously known fact. However, even then such "disappearance" would only briefly occur and that at very specific angles of attack to the specific radar source.

However, your statements about the end of the Flying Wing because of this occurrence need serious verification via original source documentation. I will be glad to examine any such documentation you may have and print an appropriate retraction if needed, also sharing it with the retired Northrop engineers with whom I have contact. I chose not to share those specific responses as they were, shall we say, "highly and colorfully negative".

In the meantime, the reasons you state for cancellation remain the wildest and most unsubstantiated assertions.



Well, if you think that the statement of test pilot Lt. Col. J.J. Quinn, on the stealth characteristics of the YB-49, are not consistent and prefer the version of the Northrop engineers, I may assume that you will apply the same type of discrimination to any other evidence or reasoning that contradict your opinion.
I believe it does not make sense to prolong this debate. However, would you publish a book about the subject, I will gladly read it.


AlanG


Well, if you think that the statement of test pilot Lt. Col. J.J. Quinn, on the stealth characteristics of the YB-49, are not consistent and prefer the version of the Northrop engineers, I may assume that you will apply the same type of discrimination to any other evidence or reasoning that contradict your opinion.
I believe it does not make sense to prolong this debate. However, would you publish a book about the subject, I will gladly read it.


On the contrary, the test pilot merely said that, one time, while flying a B-49, ground radar lost him and he had to turn on his IFF transponder. With the benefit of hindsight, he knows this is an early example of what we now call "stealth". This matches known facts - that the B-49 was (accidentally) harder to detect than conventional aircraft, especially from certain angles. This has nothing to do with why it was cancelled. The advantages of reduced visibility to radar were outweighed by range limitations, payload physical size limitations and more - it simply wasn't the best plane for the mission at the time.
 

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Personal anecdotes from pilots are useful as to their experiences when flying the plane. Not so useful when talking about government policies (cancellation) or the intentions of the designers.
 

Michel Van

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Let's look on Facts

B-35 and B-36 project start as USAAC strategic Longrange Bomber in 1941,
in case Great Britain has to surrender to Nazi, those Bomber had to fly mission from USA out to Germany and drop 4000 kg bomb load.
using Pratt & Whitney R-4360 as engine

Flying wing vs conventional design:
Boeing (for XB-17) and Convair (early XB-36 study) proposed large flying wing with fuselage and not empennage
for pitch stability they proposed large deplorable flaps at wing, but USAAF those who gonna fly those things were feel uneasy about it.
What let to more conventional Design of B-17 and B-36, except Jack Northrop manager somehow to sell his flying Wing to USAAC.

Problem with XB-35
From begin Jack Northrop makes several fatal mistake in design of XB-35 during 1941 and 1946
for more stability he installed conter rotating propellors needing complex gearbox setting.
To better balance and trimming, four small Bomb bay was installed in wing, while USAAF needed one large Bomb bay
bigger bombs like Grand Slam or even Atomic bomb had the XB-35 carry out side, but that never happen
Only after 19 troublesome flights the XB-35 were grounded, while first XB-36 make it test flight
Metall fatigue in wing, gearbox, even in R-4360 engine. Next to that had test pilots hell of problems to fly it stable

Problem with YB-35
Jack Northrop try to over worked the XB-35 problem like installing better engines and central big Bomb bay
but got Refusal by USAAF XB-35 project management, The Xb-36 had similar problems in that time, because the Engines and propellors were USAAF property.
As in 1948 The propellor driven YB-35 take off, the Boeing XB-47 Jet bomber had made it first test flight a year earlyer.
while the XB-36 ended there test program and make ready for production and service as B-36
Now to keep up with changes time the YB-35 was dropped for version YB-49 with Jet engine

Problems with YB-49
during test flight of second YB-48 the aircraft went into dive and crash killing entire crew
YB-49 had still the pitch stability issue now much worse because lack of propellors, also had it four bomb bay
so USAF wanted to use the YB-49 now as ronly econnaissance aircraft, the winner here became the RB-47
only one of YRB-49 was build and fly as program was stop by budget cuts
while B-36 and B-47 was in service and Boeing build the XB-52

conclusion:
USAAF and USAF gave Jack Northrop 9 years to get bugs out the B-35 - B-49 project
Next Design fault, stubborn bureaucrats, changing demands had Northrop a big problem: Production capacity
original Glen A Martin had to help Northrop to build 200 B-35
for RB-49 the USAF secretary proposed Merger of Northrop with Convair, what Jack Northrop refused, irony that secretary left USAF and became boss of Convair
also had Convair and Boeing more Lobbyist as Northrop. Also had Jack Northrop offen often collided with the political wheeling-and-dealing in Washington D.C.
 

Justo Miranda

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ACResearcher said:
Thank you for sharing three FICTIONAL stories in the Horten thread. However, fiction is not the basis for historical fact.

If one is to be considered a serious historian, he/she must be willing to provide facts to support claims. My "comments and opinions", as you have called them, are verifiable historical facts based solidly on original source documentary evidence and qualified retired Northrop engineering personnel who were not only present during much of the time in question but are frankly considered to be experts in the field of the Northrop Flying Wings.

Speculation is perfectly acceptable as long as it is LABELED as speculation and facts are provided as a basis. To put anything in print of any form that does not have the support of history removes one from consideration as a credible historian and moves him/her to the area of interesting fiction. Doing otherwise is a disservice to all those who trust us to provide actual TRUTH to them in their efforts to grow more educated on these topics. As for Mr. Quinn's observations on the "stealth" qualities of the YB-49, trying to take today's concept of stealth and applying to 1947 is like applying the turbine engine to the Model T.

Once again, provide copies of the original source documentation and I shall be more than happy to add it to my 30 years of study on the Northrop Flying Wings and state publically that I was wrong. The same goes for the misuse of the term "stealth" and oblique references to W. Stuart Symington.

Facts. Facts. Facts. Don't claim it, prove it.

AlanG


Sir,

From what can be read in this thread you have only, as I have, expressed your opinions.
If you have been researching the subject so many years, you have a moral obligation to publish a book and share your vast knowledge and conclusions with us, risking your public reputation, as authors do.

Respectfully,
Justo Miranda
 

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Justo Miranda said:
ACResearcher said:
Thank you for sharing three FICTIONAL stories in the Horten thread. However, fiction is not the basis for historical fact.

If one is to be considered a serious historian, he/she must be willing to provide facts to support claims. My "comments and opinions", as you have called them, are verifiable historical facts based solidly on original source documentary evidence and qualified retired Northrop engineering personnel who were not only present during much of the time in question but are frankly considered to be experts in the field of the Northrop Flying Wings.

Speculation is perfectly acceptable as long as it is LABELED as speculation and facts are provided as a basis. To put anything in print of any form that does not have the support of history removes one from consideration as a credible historian and moves him/her to the area of interesting fiction. Doing otherwise is a disservice to all those who trust us to provide actual TRUTH to them in their efforts to grow more educated on these topics. As for Mr. Quinn's observations on the "stealth" qualities of the YB-49, trying to take today's concept of stealth and applying to 1947 is like applying the turbine engine to the Model T.

Once again, provide copies of the original source documentation and I shall be more than happy to add it to my 30 years of study on the Northrop Flying Wings and state publically that I was wrong. The same goes for the misuse of the term "stealth" and oblique references to W. Stuart Symington.

Facts. Facts. Facts. Don't claim it, prove it.

AlanG


Sir,

From what can be read in this thread you have only, as I have, expressed your opinions.
If you have been researching the subject so many years, you have a moral obligation to publish a book and share your vast knowledge and conclusions with us, risking your public reputation, as authors do.

Respectfully,
Justo Miranda
AMEN, Justo! -SP
 

ACResearcher

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Moral Obligations

Actually, my "moral obligation" as I determine it goes in several separate but related directions.

The first and most important is to provide accurate, identifiable and verifiable information in everything I write, while clearly labeling speculative portions as being so and also the specific pre-existing data upon which it is based. I am not a fiction writer. As this applies to the Flying Wing, most of the facts that I shared have already appeared in an excellent book by Gary Pape and John M. Campbell ("Northrop Flying Wings", Schiffer Publishing, Ltd; First Edition August 1, 1995, ISBN-13: 978-0887406898). A great deal of information, photos, etc. for this book were provided by the retired Northop engineer to whom I referred who also happens to be a known and respected author of books on military aircraft. He also read the manuscript for accuracy prior to publication as well as my original post on this topic. This also a practice I follow: having my writings verified for accuracy by acknowledged experts. Another part of my "moral code". So there is really no need for me to reinvent the wheel on this topic.

Another part of my "moral obligation" is as a serious historian, and that is to wherever possible debunk baseless claims and incorrect statements made by others in those areas within my knowledge base. This I have done.

Finally, I practice my craft by sharing factual information in forums such as this, which I have also done on a number of occasions. In all cases I can specifically identify the original source(s) behind my statements.

However, this does not address my original and basic request: if there is original source data that supports Mr. Miranda's claims about the end of the Flying Wing programs, please produce them so that all might learn.

Unless there are requests for factual data regarding the Flying Wings that I can provide I consider myself done with this topic.
 

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THANK YOU!!!!

ACR, I thank you for setting the record straight on that. There's a certain FB page where this particular aircraft seems to pop up from time to time.

Unfortunately, it's mostly tinfoil types that choose to spread unsubstantiated BS theories and conjecture about the subject in the comments. And you can't convince them otherwise. My favorite was one idiot who claimed to have seen a YB-49 take off from Eilson AFB in Alaska in the early 70's.

I'm going to reference this thread next time I see some more idiocy surrounding Northrop's flying wings.
 

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Thanks ACR, I was familiar with the reasoning behind the B35/B49 cancellation, but you really sharpened the timeline for me.
 

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