Northrop Flying Wing 9 Northrop Flying Wing 10 Northrop Flying Wing 12

“The Northrop XB-35 and YB-35 were experimental heavy bomber aircraft developed for the United States Army Air Forces during and shortly after World War II by the Northrop Corporation.”

- Wikipedia

20 Responses

  1. dejoh

    These planes were way ahead of their times. They scared the beejeebers out of the established Air Force who were against change. They had them all destroyed.

    • Calvin Pipher

      There was a fight between the democrats and the republicans whether it would be the flying wing (democrats) or the B-36 (republicans). Sabotage was done, leading to a crash of one of the Flying Wings and we lost one of our best test pilots. republicans gained control of the house and picked the obsolete B-36. Northrup was so incensed that he ordered all the remaining Flying Wings to be cut up. Fast Forward 25 years plus and President Carter called Jack Northrup and told him he waited to meet with him. Northrup an old man complied and went into the oval office where President Carter greeted him and pushed a wooden box to him. Northrup opened the box and tears started to fall. It was our new bomber. The B-2 flying wing. Northrup smiled and said thank you, Mr. President and left his office. He died a happy man just a few weeks later.

  2. Oliver

    How come they never used these planes? They can use these planes today againts bullish chinese communist!

    • foinikas

      “againts bullish chinese communist” … If you ever wake up, leave McCarthy ‘s era and welcome to the 21th century!

      • Kenny Breaz

        Released, government files and files from former KGB archives PROVED McCarthy was absolutely correct. Take the Venona Code intercepts: The 3000 encrypted communications between Soviet spies operating in this country and their masters in Moscow, which American and British code breakers began deciphering in 1946.

        These KGB messages revealed that the Soviets had agents at the highest levels of the executive and legislative branches of our government — and those of our allies — before, during, and shortly after, WWII.

        In just the small fraction of intercepted cables we’re able to decrypt more than 300 American residents are identified as Soviet agents. The enormous damage they did us still affects lives today.

        We’ve long known that scientists at Los Alamos handed the Soviet Union the secrets of nuclear fission, enabling Stalin to build his own A-bomb. The geo-political fall-out from that (pun intended) can hardly be overestimated.

        Venona gives us extensive detail. And much more.

        When the Allies met at Yalta and Potsdam at the close of WWII, Soviet agents were among America’s highest level representatives, helping to send millions of non-Soviet citizens into Stalin’s Gulag, and set up the Soviet take-over of Eastern Europe.

        And why was the West blind-sided in 1950 when North Korea invaded the South, starting the Korean War?

        Because Willam Weisband, a Soviet spy and language expert helping American code breakers working on Venona and other Soviet codes, told the Soviets in 1948 of our successes. All their military/intelligence codes consequently went black, almost overnight, keeping us from learning they were helping China and North Korea prepare to invade the South.

        That intelligence failure kept us from preparing for, or preventing, the Korean War.

        Venona decrypts also describe how Soviet spies in America gave them our jet fighter secrets, enabling their MiG-15s to slaughter thousands in Korea.

        So why do Americans typically think that Soviet spies in the US were a figment of Joe McCarthy’s imagination; and that the Rosenbergs, Hiss and Oppenheimer were wrongfully accused?

        Because the US government didn’t release our Venona evidence till 1995. And then largely because two American scholars, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, had written about the Russian side of the Venona encryptions they’d discovered in Russia’s KGB archives in 1992.

        The US initially had good reasons for hiding what we knew from Venona; like not wanting the Soviets to know what we’d learned and what we hadn’t, so spies we were watching wouldn’t be pulled and replaced.

        But not releasing the Venona decryptions allowed forty years of misinformation to mislead American minds; to whitewash Hiss and the Rosenbergs; to vilify Bentley and Chambers, Soviet spies who changed their ways and came clean in the forties.

        Still today, when the truths revealed in our Venona decrypts have been out for fourteen years, the general news media, Hollywood in particular (which continues to release misinformation on American spy hunts annually), as well as many in academia, remain strangely silent. McCarthy was right!

  3. Chris

    Sorry dejoh but you don’t know what you’re talking about. These planes were not scrapped because they scared the established Air Force (an absurd statement seeing how the Air Force didn’t exist prior to 1947). The real reason these planes didn’t enter service come down to three more basic things:
    1) They had some stability issues which made them much more dangerous to fly, especially fully loaded. This was later solved decades later in the similar B-2 stealth bomber thanks to flight control computers.
    2) They lacked range. The original design had adequate range but the contra rotating prop design resulted in excessive vibration forcing a change to more conventional single prop engines. With that change the range dropped considerably. The jet powered version also lacked the range to hit targets deep in the USSR.
    3) The even bigger reason is that neither the prop nor jet powered version (the YB-49, also shown) was capable of carrying even a single atomic bomb. The flying wing design forced the payload to be spread across three relatively small bomb bays rather than the much larger bomb bay found in the competing B-36. After Hiroshima the US assumed all future strategic bombing missions would involve atomic weapons and a plane that couldn’t haul an A-bomb was useless as far as the US was concerned. This was the real nail in the coffin for the program.

    Instead of going with a problematic design with limited payload capacity and range the Air Force went with the B-36 Peacemaker which was also a pretty radical design, had its own development issues and was the largest combat aircraft ever to see service. The B-36 was a massive plane capable of hitting any target on the planet. It was so large it had a kitchen and sleeping quarters for the crew in the middle of the plane which they accessed by riding a small train through the bomb bay from the flight deck. It solved the issues of range and payload through shear size. The Peacemaker was eventually replaced by the B-52 once they were able to make truly reliable jet engines as well as perfect air to air refueling (it could easily be argued that the KC-135 is by far the most important military aircraft of the post WW2 era).

  4. Chris


    You don’t know what you’re talking about. My grandad worked on the YB-49 (the jet powered version shown in some of these photos) so I’ve spoken with people who had first hand experience with the plane. There are two main reasons they scrapped the wings:
    1) They lacked the range to hit targets deep in the USSR. The original YB-35 used an advanced contra-rotating propeller design which helped give the plane great range. However it also caused huge prop shaft vibration problems forcing them to go to a more conventional engine design and slashing the range in the process. The jet version was no better thanks to the limitations of early jet design. Keep in mind mid air refueling had yet to be perfected.
    2) The design of the wing meant the payload had to be spread across three fairly small bomb bays. This design made it impossible for the plane to carry the atomic bombs of the day. By the late 40s the assumption was that any strategic bombing mission of the future would involve nuclear ordnance so this was a real deal breaker for the military.

    In the end the Air Force went with the also radical B-36 Peacemaker which solved the range and
    payload issues through shear massive size. It was the largest combat aircraft ever deployed. It was so big that the crew had sleeping quarters and a kitchen aft of the bomb bay which was accessed by a small train traveling from the flight deck. You know a plane is big when it has a train inside! Once jet engine technology and midair refueling had been perfected the Air Force switched to the B-52.

  5. dejoh

    Thanks for the intresting facts on these planes. I was misinformed by a pilot I know.
    Sorry to ruffle any feathers.

  6. dejoh

    One YRB-49A had been completed when, in September 1948, the Air Force ordered the type into full production as the RB-49A reconnaissance aircraft.[1] It was powered by six jet engines, two of them externally mounted in under wing pods, ruining the aircraft’s sleek, aerodynamic lines, but extending its range by carrying additional fuel. The use of jet engines had resulted in considerably increased fuel consumption, and decreased its range significantly below that of the rival Convair B-36.[1]

    During early 1950, the remaining YB-35Bs airframes being converted to YRB-49As were scrapped. Flight testing of the sole remaining YB-49 prototype ended 14 March 1950. On 15 March 1950, that program was canceled, and coincidentally, that last YB-49 prototype suffered a high-speed taxiing accident and, as previously noted, was totally destroyed in the ensuing fire.

    But only two months later, all flying wing contracts were canceled abruptly without explanation by order of Stuart Symington, Secretary of the Air Force. Shortly thereafter, also without explanation, Symington turned down a request from the Smithsonian for the Air Force to donate one of these big wings to its collection.[3]

    All remaining flying wing bomber airframes, except for the sole YRB-49A reconnaissance version, were then ordered chopped up by the Air Force, the materials smelted down with portable smelters brought to Northrop’s facility, in plain sight of its employees. Jack Northrop retired from both the company he founded and aviation shortly after he saw his dream of a pure, all-wing aircraft destroyed.[4] His son, John Northrop Jr., later recounted during an interview his father’s devastation and lifelong suspicion that his flying wing project had been sabotaged by political influence and back room wheeling-and-dealing between Convair and the Air Force.[5]

    Northrop YRB-49A with six engines, two of which are mounted externally.
    The sole prototype reconnaissance platform, the YRB-49A, first flew on 4 May 1950. After only 13 flights, testing ended abruptly on 26 April 1951. It was then flown back to Northrop’s headquarters from Edwards Air Force Base (formally Muroc) on what would be its last flight. There, this remaining flying wing sat abandoned at the edge of Northrop’s Ontario airport for more than two years. It was finally ordered scrapped on 1 December 1953.[6]

  7. Baron von Rassilon

    If I may also add, there was a fighter prototype version also made the Northrop N-1M. Germany also had several Horten flying wings versions too.

  8. Bobby

    I once came upon a website that showed that at least a few thousand inventions, new technology,etc. was stolen from the defeated German after the war, by the U.S. England, France, Russia, Canada,etc. I wish I’d have bookmarked it. Does anyone know which website this was?

    • soubriquet

      I can’t tell you what the website might be, but in years gone by, I dealt with now-declassified post WWII combined intelligence reports, on Axis technology and innovation. You are not wrong about the source of much of our technology.
      And ask yourself, how much later would NASA’s moon landing have occurred without the Nazis’ chief rocket scientist, Werner Von Braun?

  9. Great Grandpaw


    Jack Northrup was years ahead of the Horten brothers in building flying wings. Boeing’s B-47 put a real end to the B-49 as it was able to do the jobs the B-49 was being considered for since it was designed from the start as a jet aircraft. The B-49 was a quick makeover of the B-35 so it lost a lot of internal volume with the engine/ intake installation. It’s too bad that Jack Northrup wasn’t given the opportunity to do a complete redesign specifically for jet engines. I did get to see it fly over Los Angeles once looking like a big silver boomerang UFO with a P-80 flying wing on it.

  10. kenzer

    You should see the B3 bomber. It is also a pure flying wing and much bigger than the B2. A smooth matte black finish with pointy wing ends and a pointy front. Looks a whole lot like a black boomerang. They fly it around in the day all the time, sometimes over the Air Force Academy for show now that the B4 is operational.

  11. Joe

    Ummm, Kenzer…the B3 is a concept design for a next generation bomber, however it is vaporware (ie, it does not yet exist); also there is no such thing as a B4 bomber.
    Were you just trolling & making things up?

  12. Dutch 1960

    These were unstable at stall speed. A traditional plane will start to fall at stall speed, and the extended tail will stabilize the plane (nose down, tail up) as the falling plane picks up speed. With no extended tail, these just tumble. Take one of those old fashioned balsa wood planes, and remove the tail section. Try to launch it and see what happens.

    The newer stealth planes are computer controlled to keep them in the air. Without the computers, they would be very dangerous, and perhaps impossible, to fly.

    There are still flyable examples of the small N-1M. They are spectacular at vintage air shows. Observe how the pilots never operate them at much less than full throttle at all times.

  13. Anatole

    Kenny, I don’t know which of your misinformed conspiracies to puncture first, but a) North Korea didn’t invade the south. Your country invaded Korea to put down a revolution, and the Korean revolutionaries responded. b) McCarthy’s purpose was not to ferret out spies – despite stated intent – but to break the back of the American labour movement, of which some CPUSA members were a part of. He did so by splitting off the radical from more moderate wings. America’s giant and growing wage gap, private healthcare and horrible working conditions is the response to the union-bashing that McCarthy initiated.

    • Avatar of Chris

      I think you read the North-Korean history books, not the ones that have been written in the rest of the world…….
      To bad my grand-father, who fought in Korea as a member of the Belgian UN contingent (and earned a US Silver Star), isn’t here anymore to give you the correct information….

      ReplyReport user
  14. Crispin Lawson

    Another random fact about this plane is that it was the partial inspiration for the name given to the largest flying creature that ever existed, Quetzelcoatlus northropi. The connection was the creature’s gigantic wingspan of approximately 50 ft., which brought to mind the flying wing.


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