Northrop XP-79

Cool plane, but lets set the record straight.

The XP-78 was NEVER intended to shoot down enemy planes by ramming them! This is an urban myth that has perpetuated over the decades. The Northrop XP-79 was to be armed with four .50 in guns, and this was the aircraft's ONLY armament -- not the leading edge of the wing. In my research writing Clipped Wings - The History of Aborted Aircraft Projects I found no evidence to support this ludicrous theory, and just the concept of a tiny aircraft such as this ramming enemy aircraft and surviving shows how unlikely this was. Even the Germans with their Me 163 and Ba 349 never came up with this concept, nor did the Japanese who certainly might have -- so why would the Americans?

The XP-79 was an unusual aircraft to say the least and one of Jack Northrop's Flying Wings, but one that failed as it crashed on its first and only flight.

Let us leave this subject of a "flying ram" in the "Speculated History" section of this forum.
saturncanuck said:
The XP-78 was NEVER intended to shoot down enemy planes by ramming them!
The XP-79 wasn't, and certainly not the P-78 either!!!

On a serious note, the very notion that an aircraft with such a prominent glazed cockpit could be used for "ramming" enemy aircraft is so ludicrous I'm even surprise anyone could have come up with it!!! I could be wrong but I would be inclined to believe that the names "Ram Wing" and "Flying Ram" used to describe the MX-334/-324 and XP-79B aircraft refered more to their shape than an actual projected mission...
Stargazer2006 said:
saturncanuck said:
The XP-78 was NEVER intended to shoot down enemy planes by ramming them!
The XP-79 wasn't, and certainly not the P-78 either!!!

On a serious note, the very notion that an aircraft with such a prominent glazed cockpit could be used for "ramming" enemy aircraft is so ludicrous I'm even surprise anyone could have come up with it!!! I could be wrong but I would be inclined to believe that the names "Ram Wing" and "Flying Ram" used to describe the MX-334/-324 and XP-79B aircraft refered more to their shape than an actual projected mission...

Stargazer, I agree with you. It may have been that the name was based on shape, and then, over the years, was preverted into its role.

An interesting idea though.
Here is a line drawing by Petr Kolmann (scaled to 1:72) and a color drawing - all from L+K magazine, No.11-2006.


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I just LOVE the Flying Ram!

What about some trivia quiz on top of it? Here goes: who can identify the birdie birdies in the background? ;D

I can't say exactly wihtout a lot more digging than I ahve time for at the moment, but the single-tail tail-dragger in the background looks to be either a Curtiss or Cessna trainer.
Sorry ChuckAnderson,

the AT.11 was a Beechcraft construction, on the right you can see the Fairchild "Gunner" (XAT.14 or AT.21), but not XAT.13!

Servus Maveric
lets face it, the XP-79 was not build for ramming enemy aircraft
the rubble of enemy aircraft will hit the cockpit and Intake of the jet engine.

The Luftwaffe had similar plans but that was "Selbstopferung" Mission (German Kamikaze)
witch's include lost of pilot & aircraft...
You're going for the polite name, I was going to say "Bamboo Bomber". For those of us in the USA of "a certain age", it brings back memories of the first "Songbird" and the tv series it appeared in. :D
I have to admit that my previous employers, Aerospace Publishing, probably did something to perpetuate the ramming myth of the XP-79, when in a publication in the 1980s, ie pre-internet days, they published an artwork showing a production P-79 (or should that be F-79) ramming the tail of a Tu-16 Badger!
VictorXL188 said:
I have to admit that my previous employers, Aerospace Publishing, probably did something to perpetuate the ramming myth of the XP-79, when in a publication in the 1980s, ie pre-internet days, they published an artwork showing a production P-79 (or should that be F-79) ramming the tail of a Tu-16 Badger!

When were you there?

I did 2 weeks work experience there in 1991/92 (can't remember exact date), was a great experience.

Excellent find!

That cockpit looks positively excruciating to be in. I also can't imagine being able to extricate yourself from inside there with any degree of ease. No thanks!
That's cool. I just posted that on GPTNW a few days ago. Seems that old chestnut about the XP-79 being a rammer is rearing it's ugly head again.
oh-kay , some undesirable r16 insight . Just became aware of this book by Graham Simons , Northrop Flying Wings which goes as "First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Pen and Sword Aviation" ... We have all heard that the leading edges were to be steel to chop tails off enemy planes but in the 21st Century Americans can not bring themselves to believe "suiciding" could have ever been considered for the "rational" American mindset . They are not Jihadists under Saudi pay ; with visions of 72 virgins awaiting , are they ?

Continuous delays in the development of a suitable rocket motor ultimately led to a decision to abandon that particular phase of the project and proceed with a turbojet-powered modification. In March 1943, plans were made to add two Westinghouse 19-B (J30) axial flow turbojets to the craft and its designation became XP-79B.

At this juncture the XP-79B acquired a new mission and a new nickname, the Flying Ram or the Ram Wing. There were persistent reports of angry Soviet and Japanese pilots deliberately ramming their opponents—often when they were out of ammunition, and this appears to have led to the Ram Wing concept designed to be capable of neatly chopping off an enemy’s tail ten times a day.

ha, ha ... Gotcha ? Maybe not . Am not intending to insult Mr. Graham in any way but for the sake of argument let's assume for a second that he believes in the religion of triangle which goes like "Triangle equals Stealth, Stealth equals contact with Aliens" ... And he might be telling lies in the mold of the original operatives of the concept , Neo Nazis and the lot , shocking poor Americans off their rockers . Or maybe not . If he had been so , he would have done a much better job of hinting it was them Germans who invented it . The concept ı mean ... Rocket powered tailless craft to cut down drag and progresively weight for maximum rate of climb . The altitude of interception being a lesser concern , patrol interceptor type with bona fide sailplanes perform equally well in that , but we are talking about pre-radar days ... Even to the lack of landing gear ; doesn't the Office of Naval Intelligence perform miracles ?

oh , are you going to mock me with veiled jokes about the Rammjager ? Luckily for me , the good folk of SPF have been protected from the notion of the Torpedo Fly and how it would have changed the course of D-Day . Ah yes , the picture exists somewhere in this forum . Ah , am so sure that am entirely mistaken that the J8M was named after some sort of Katana . Which , thanks to Hollywood we all know , is waved in the general direction of an opponent and all sorts of appendages like arms and heads come off as a result .

and of course it's not the Japanese fighter pilots running out of ammunition . But media reports of the time that the Japanese are using "terminal" guidance by adding a human pilot to those rather hefty bombs they are dropping in China , 1938 to 40 . Find a suicide crew for the mother-bomber and it will be impossibly high in heavens , say in the case of a Russo-German war and all the clunker "Martin" will have to do is to find Berlin . Trusting the immedite Hero of the Soviet Union to spot some big building to dive into . Adolf's life is important , you know . "Sweet" as we would say in Turkish .

and probably rather more dependable than the American programme to train pigeons for the same .

and of course the lack of enough power cuts down all the sensible parts off the spec . No "kuto nase" to push the cockpit back into fuselage in case of an over-zealous contact , no armoured shutters , no "shafts" for the thing to slide on , no assistance for getting out , no tank purging at the range of a kilometer or a mile just out of the range of the cannons the mother-bomber might carry . Instead , America opts to improve ; instead of one do-or-die mission they will chop 10 tails a day . Each ... Once given a couple of jets when rocket will not make the grade .

Original specifications for the XP-79 do not appear to mention ramming enemy aircraft as a mission requirement, but pilots associated with the MX-324 programme recall that ramming was indeed the primary mission of the XP-79B. In Jack Northrop’s words, ‘It was designed as a projectile, with the thought that it could be used to intercept and knock wings or tails off other airplanes. Rather than shooting at them, this airplane was going to slice sections off the other airplanes to destroy them."

okay , let's hear if Jack Northrop never ever said such a thing . The typical failure of the US Industry . And if this sounds harsh , what follows even insults American manhood :

It is possible that the unusually high impact strength resulting from the magnesium construction might have provided Air Force planners with a rare opportunity to explore a concept of aerial warfare seldom practiced except in extremis. In retrospect, a tactic of such a desperate nature would seem unwarranted in view of the fact that in 1945 the US Army Air Forces had total command of the skies in every theatre of war and mid-air collisions as a tactic would seem highly unrealistic. It is doubtful that many American pilots had the skill or motivation to manoeuvre their aircraft in such a precise manner to collide with their opponents and return home intact.

which is still way better than Bell's P-77 , a guerilla fighter out of wood for use after the Nazi invasion of America ... Alas , no What-iffer will bother with a diaroma of the American rammer , mounted vertical on its dolly , hidden between the trees of some plantation in Carolina .

and please no calls on the Moderators to take action . Especially for those who have posted in the thread ; they will be like totally wrong to assume that it's them who are challenged here .
I can assure one and all that neither the P-79 nor its rocket predecessors were ever intended to act as "rammers". Nor, according to Jack Northrop himself, did the Me-163 or its prototypes have any influence on the projects.

As for the steel leading edge, this is correct but the reason was due to the manner in which the wing itself was constructed, i.e. top and bottom halves built and then fastened together.

I am currently taking a break from several projects (including Consolidated Mess, Vol. II) to put together a monograph on the XP-79 and its predecessors where all this will be explained, including why the rocket-powered MX-324 didn't work. I'm sorting through a few hundred photos and organizing documents and then will put it all together. It should not take too long.

I think it may be time to share a bit more actual historical data on the XP-79, ideally without giving away everything to be covered in the monograph!

I'll begin with a section from the official Army Air Force final report on the project:

AAF Technical Report 5509
Final Report of the Development of the Northrop XP-79B Airplane
Army Air Forces Air Materiel Command, Wright Field, Dayton Ohio
(11 July 1946)

"OBJECT The object of this project was to develop a small, highly maneuverable rocket propelled interceptor fighter airplane.

"SUMMARY This report is a brief resume of the development of the XP-79 and XP=79B airplanes, including the procurement, inspection and performance characteristics. This report has been arranged to cover a more or less chronological summary of the most important phases of development in order that it will serve as a ready reference and record of events concerned with the development of the XP-79 and XP-79B airplanes. Had it been successful, the XP-79 airplane would have been the first rocket propelled airplane developed in this country."

My information on Jack Northrop's statement came from Gerry Balzer, the well-known expert on Northop aircraft and who worked as an aeronautical engineer at Northrop in the 1940s and early 1950s. He personally asked Jack the question about the Me 163's influence and was told flat out that there was none. I'm very interested in the source of the Northrop quotes you have in your posting.

The United States military had long-since investigated and rejected the inherently-suicidal concept of using fighters to ram enemy aircraft. In Volume 9 of The Aviation Historian I did an article on the project investigating this tactic as well as provided drawings of the aircraft as armored that might have been used. The following is an introductory section of that article from its first page:

" On October 31, 1940, a conference with the U.S. Secretary of War resulted in a verbal directive issued on November 1, 1940 from General Carl Spaatz, then Chief of the Material Division, for a study to be undertaken on increasing armor on existing pursuit aircraft or those currently under development so the aircraft could ram attack hostile bombardment aircraft.

"The purpose of this study, given the serial number CTI-141, was to armor pursuit planes so that the pilot “in cases of extreme emergency…even in the case of superior hostile defensive fire power” could ram and thus destroy the hostile aircraft. The tactic to be used was a quartering approach with the intent of hitting the enemy aircraft’s tail surfaces.

"But this was not intended to be a suicidal plunge into the enemy. As stated in the Technical Instructions from Material Command dated November 26, 1940:

“c. As stressed during the conference in the Office, Secretary of War, the morale factor in such tactics would quite naturally depend on the likelihood of the pilot of the ramming airplane standing a reasonable chance of being able to abandon his airplane just prior to the moment of collision, or on the strength factors of the cockpit section of the ramming aircraft being such that it would stand up under the collision impact, assuring the pilot of a possible chance of escaping after the collision.”

"Ramming an enemy bomber was to be used as a last resort, so the “offensive fire power of the ‘collision’ airplane” was to be kept as high as possible given the additional weight of the added armor protection."

I'm pretty certain The Aviation Historian has some back-issues on hand containing this article.

I hope this all helps to further clarify that rather interesting history of the MX-324 and subsequent XP-79s. There is much more to be told!

not that the question is probably asked to me , but the quote that matters is from Graham Simons' book , Northrop Flying Wings . As an .epub file which makes it impossible to give a page number as length of the document tends to change according to the size of the font you use for reading . Can sure note down its numbers and stuff if that's needed though .

the quote that matters ? Namely ‘It was designed as a projectile'

ı am a wannabe historian , have some discipline of the art/science and know it very well to "invent" speeches , sources , documents and the whole lot is easy and "popular" . Once again ı offer nothing against Mr. Simmons , unfamiliar with the rest of his work and the said discipline orders formation of certain sounding judgements only if based on such examination .

accordingly such a statement by Jack Northrop , if it exists , trumps any other effort . Am certainly ready to accept that no other authors and investigators have seen it , so it might not exist .

This drawing never saw in the book; Flying Wings and Radical Things: Northrop's
Secret Aerospace Projects & Concepts,and it's XP-79 early configuration.


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Dear all,
about XP-79B, in an old VHS I found a short clip (it was ... subliminal, one or two seconds). With artisanal means I have captured this screenshot. I think it's the only picture left where you see the XP-79 in motion; unfortunately the VHS has been lost and I'm no longer able to do better. The quality is worse than horrible, but you can see how the plane was white or silverish and not chrome yellow or orange as sometime is portrayed.


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From an accidential find in the Sarah Clark files looking for something else.

Since I didn't have my scanner with me (wasn't expecting to scan large 8x10s) I did the best I could with a photo stand and a DSLR.


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Is this jet engined Aircraft really pre 1945? I'd love to know the production dates and what engines were uses and when they got them.
It is a 1945 aircraft. See for deails.
Thanks for clearing that up, So I see it was originally to be rocket powered!
Length: 14 ft, Wingspan: 28 ft, Height: 7 ft, Wing area: 278 ft², Empty weight: 5,840 lb, Loaded weight: 8,669 lb
Powerplant: 2× Westinghouse 19B turbojet, 1,150 lbf each
Maximum speed: 547 mph, Range: 993 mi, Service ceiling: 40,000 ft, Rate of climb: 4,000 ft/min, Wing loading: 31 lb/ft²
Thrust/weight: 0.27
Armament, Guns: 4 × .50-cal (12.7 mm) machine guns (never fitted)


Three side view spurce. Front view is liittle strange compared with real aircraft front picture?

Westinghouse 19B jet engine.


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