Northrop YB-35

The Northrop XB-35 and YB-35 were experimental heavy bomber aircraft developed by the Northrop Corporation for the United States Army Air Forces during and shortly after World War II. The airplane used the radical and potentially very efficient flying wing design, in which the tail section and fuselage are eliminated and all payload is carried in a thick wing. Only prototype and pre-production aircraft were built, although interest remained strong enough to warrant further development of the design as a jet bomber, under the designation YB-49.[2]

YB-35 prototype
Role Strategic bomber
Manufacturer Northrop
Designer Jack Northrop
First flight 25 June 1946
Status Cancelled in 1949
Primary user United States Air Force
Program cost US$66 million[1]
Variants Northrop YB-49

Design and development

The B-35 was the brainchild of Jack Northrop, who made the flying wing the focus of his work during the 1930s. In 1941 before the USA entered World War II, Northrop and Consolidated Vultee Corporation had been commissioned to develop a large wing-only, long-range bomber designated XB-35 and XB-36. Northrop advocated a "flying wing" as a means of reducing parasitic drag and eliminating structural weight not directly responsible for producing lift. Consolidated Vultee proposed a more conventional design with fuselage and tail, which was much larger and heavier. In theory, the B-35 could carry a greater payload faster, farther, and cheaper than a conventional bomber. On December 1941, the Army Air Corps awarded prototype contracts to both Northrop and Consolidated Vultee for a bomber that could carry 4,500 kg (10,000 lb) of bombs to a round-trip mission of 16,000 km (10,000 mi). Requested performance was a maximum speed of 720 km/h (450 mph), cruise speed of 443 km/h (275 mph), and service ceiling of 14,000 m (45,000 ft). This aircraft would be able to bomb Nazi-occupied Europe in the event that Britain fell (this was similar to Nazi Germany's own Amerika Bomber program design competition through RLM, itself initiated in the spring of 1942). The original April 1941 USAAC proposal was first submitted to Boeing and Consolidated Aircraft Company and led to the production of the Convair B-36. In May the contract was also extended to include Northrop, inviting them to submit a design along the lines they were already exploring.[2][3]

Since the new aircraft would require a significant amount of engineering work in untested waters, the first order placed was actually for two prototypes of the XB-35, and included Northrop's plan to also build two all-wood one-third scale flying models to measure performance and stability; these were dubbed the Northrop N-9M (M standing for model). This aircraft would be used to gather flight test data on the Flying Wing design. Jack Northrop also hired part-time the leading aeronautical designer of the day Theodore von Karman, to evaluate and who approved of Northrop's initial design, and to start building the tooling for building the prototypes ... as explained in detail in the book "Goodbye Beautiful Wing" by Terrence O'Neill. The N9Ms would also be used as a flight trainer, to familiarize pilots with the radical, all-wing concept. Early in 1942, design work on the XB-35 itself began in earnest. Unlike conventional aircraft, truly "tailless" flying wings cannot use a rudder for lateral control as it was absent, so a set of clamshell-like, double split flaps (so called flaperon, a portmanteau of flap and aileron) on the trailing edge of the wingtips were used. When aileron control was input, they were deflected up or down as a single unit, just like an aileron. When rudder input was made, the two surfaces on one side opened, top and bottom, creating drag, and yawing the aircraft. By applying input to both rudder pedals, both sets of surfaces were deployed creating drag so that the airspeed or the glide angle could be manipulated.[3]



On 22 November 1941, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF, or AAF) signed the development contract for an XB-35;[4] the contract included an option for a second aircraft, which was exercised on 2 January 1942. The first was to be delivered in November 1943, the second in April of the next year.

Detailed engineering began in early 1942. A fuselage-like crew cabin was to be embedded inside the wing; it included a tail cone protruding from the trailing edge. This tail cone would contain the remote sighting stations for the bomber's gunners and a cluster of rear-firing machine guns in the production aircraft. In the midsection of the cabin, there were folding bunks for off-duty crew on long missions.[5] The aircraft's bomb load was to be carried in six smaller bomb bays, three in each wing section, fitted with roll-away doors; this original design precluded the carrying of large bombs, and the early atomic bombs, without bomb bay redesign and modifications.[6][7] Production aircraft would have defensive armament of twenty 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns or 20 mm cannon, carried in six turrets, two turrets along the aircraft's center line, four above and below the outer wings, and four in the "stinger" tail cone.[8] The B-35 would take advantage of a new aluminum alloy devised by Alcoa; it was considerably stronger than any alloy used previously.

In June 1946, the XB-35 made its first flight, a 45-minute trip from Hawthorne, California, to Muroc Dry Lake, without incident.[9] The XB-35's engines and propellers were AAF property, and had not been tested for engine-propeller compatibility by either Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Standard, or by the AAF which bought them at Wright Field without testing them or assuring reliability, and then shipped them to Northrop. Microfilmed records of reports and correspondence of the XB-35 program relate that after three or four flights, power plant and propeller vibrations increased, and the very efficient contra-rotating propellers began failing with frustrating frequency. Meetings were called by Northrop, of the AAF, Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Standard where no one would take responsibility for correcting the AAF's engines and propellers. In addition, the AAF failed to supply the AC electrical alternator, insisting on Northrop using an onboard auxiliary power unit (APU) unit driven by an automotive engine which limited the high-altitude, high-speed XB-35 to test flights below 15,000 ft (4,600 m). The AAF also refused to allow Northrop proposed modification of the bomb bays to carry the standard Mk. 3 atomic bomb, while at the same time declaring the AF would not buy the bomber unless it could carry the A-bomb. Northrop reluctantly agreed to try a single-rotation propeller, which slightly increased takeoff distance and a reduced rate-of-climb and maximum speed.

YB-35 42-13603 on the ramp
YB-35 Flying Wing showing its quartet of pusher contra-rotating propellers. The option was later discarded due to severe vibration in flight and later changed to traditional single rotating propeller

Problems with the quartet of contra-rotating propellers' shafts comprising each aircraft's drive-line system continued until finally Jack Northrop himself grounded the XB-35s until the government fixed their propulsion system. Concurrently, the AAF ordered Northrop to convert two of the YB-35 airframes to YB-49s, essentially substituting eight jet engines for four reciprocating engines. As a result, the airframe promptly flew to more than 40,000 ft (12,000 m) and topped 520 mph (840 km/h) in flight tests, verifying the XB-35 air frame's aerodynamics, but at the price of range. The prop-version had a design range capable of reaching targets 4,000 mi (6,400 km) away, but the jet-engine version's range was cut nearly in half. The new version disqualified it for the Air Force's top-priority mission as a strategic bomber, which at that time meant striking at the USSR's industrial and military complexes in the Ural Mountains.[10] The Air Force, itself involved in a confusion of rank and job changes, eventually cancelled the XB-35 project, while continuing testing the B-35 airframe as the YB-49, even ordering 30 of the jet-powered bombers after the first YB-49 crashed. The first and second XB-35s were scrapped on 23 and 19 August 1949, respectively.[11]


On 30 September 1943, 13 pre-production YB-35s were ordered by the Army Air Force. The first one did not fly until 15 May 1948. While some Air Force generals felt the piston engines made the B-35 obsolete, it remained superior in overall performance and range to its competitor, the Convair B-36, and General Hoyt Vandenberg wrote that only the B-35 and the B-36 had adequate range for the Air Force's primary mission, and nothing comparable would be available until the mid-1950s.[10] Only the first YB-35 was ever flown. Multiple flight testing demonstrated that it was airworthy; it was then parked and ignored for more than a year until being scrapped on 20 July 1949. The unfinished YB-35 #2, was scrapped almost a month later, on 19 August 1949. The other 11 of 13 YB-35 aircraft ordered underwent conversion to other power plants.


Two of those airframes were converted to use eight Allison J35 jet engines, and designated YB-49. The second YB-35 converted to a YB-49 all-jet airframe crashed after Air Force test pilot Forbes pulled the outer wing panels off during stall tests at 4.8 g0 (47 m/s2). The first YB-35 airframe jet-modified to a YB-49 completed all stall tests and even demonstrated recovery from a spin. It was later destroyed after the Flying Wing's forward landing gear strut and wheel collapsed after encountering high vibration during a highly unusual taxi test procedure made with the engine's fuel tanks full, causing a fire that spread rapidly.[10] Seven incomplete airframes began conversion to jet power as YB-49B but were never finished.


A third YB-35 airframe was converted to use six jet engines (two placed in under wing pods) for use as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft, designated YRB-49A. After only a few months, the Air Force's order for 30 YRB-49As was suddenly cancelled without explanation. The sole YRB-49A built flew 13 test flights and then was returned to Northrop's Ontario Airport. The last of Northrop's big Flying Wings sat abandoned at the airport's edge for two years and was finally ordered scrapped on 1 December 1953.[12]


In order to test the advanced Northrop T37 Turbodyne turboprop engine, produced by a Northrop subsidiary, the final YB-35A was to be converted to a single EB-35B test aircraft (in this case the prefix "E" for the designation meant "Exempt," not the later Electronic). The test aircraft would use two of the powerful T37 engines, each driving a pair of contra-rotating, paddle-blade propellers; the first planned ground tests were to be made using a single T37 engine.[1] When the EB-35B project was canceled, the Air Force had Northrop's Turbodyne engine name, all its patents, and technical data reassigned to General Electric.[13]


The B2T was a U.S. Navy designation for one B-35B airframe to be used for development trials; the project was canceled while still in the planning stage.

Operational history

The U.S. Army Air Forces had originally ordered 200 production model B-35s. Since Northrop's facilities were not up to the task of producing them, the Glenn L. Martin Company agreed to undertake mass production. This proved irrelevant when the aircraft had too many development problems. Even disregarding these, so many of Martin's engineers had been drafted by 1944 that Martin pushed the first delivery date back to 1947. Seeing that it would almost certainly never be ready in time for the war, the Army Air Forces canceled the production contract, though the Air Technical Services Command continued to run the program for research purposes.

Actual flight tests of the aircraft revealed several problems: the contra-rotating props caused constant heavy drive-shaft vibration and the government-supplied gearboxes had frequent malfunctions and reduced the effectiveness of propeller control. After only 19 flights, Northrop grounded the first XB-35; the second aircraft was grounded after eight test flights. During this time, the contra-rotating propellers were removed and replaced with four-blade single-rotation propellers. In addition to having continued drive shaft vibration problems, the new single-rotation props greatly reduced the aircraft's speed and performance. Furthermore, the intricate exhaust system turned into a fiasco to maintain. After only two years of use, the engines already showed signs of metal fatigue.[12]

In the end, the program was terminated due to its technical difficulties and the obsolescence of its reciprocating propeller engines, and the fact it was far behind schedule and over budget. Another contributing factor to the program's failure was the tendency of Northrop to become engaged in many experimental programs, which spread its small engineering staff far too wide. While the competing propeller-driven B-36 was obsolete by that time and had just as many or even more development problems, the Air Force needed a very long-range, post-war atomic bomber to counter the perceived Soviet threat. It had more faith that the B-36's "teething" problems could be overcome, compared to those of the new and radical "Flying Wing", the unofficial name that was later associated with all the Northrop "all-wing" designs.

There are long-standing conspiracy theories about the cancellation of the Flying Wing program; specifically, an accusation from Jack Northrop that Secretary of the Air Force Stuart Symington attempted to coerce him to merge his company with the Atlas Corporation-controlled Convair. In a 1979 taped interview, Jack Northrop claimed the Flying Wing contract was cancelled because he would not agree to a merger because Convair's merger demands were "grossly unfair to Northrop." When Northrop refused, Symington supposedly arranged to cancel the B-35 and B-49 program. Symington became president of Convair after he left government service a short time later.[14]

Other observers note that the B-35 and B-49 designs had well-documented performance and design issues while the Convair B-36 needed more development money.[15] At that time, it appeared the B-36 program might be cancelled as well as the B-35. The USAF and the Texas Congressional delegation desired to have a production program for the large Fort Worth aircraft production factory, and Convair had much more effective lobbyists in Washington DC. The Northrop Corporation was always a technological trailblazer but the independent nature of Jack Northrop often collided with the political wheeling-and-dealing in Washington that tended to run huge military allocations. Consequently, the B-36 prevailed, with just over 380 aircraft built. Furthermore, earlier the same year, when the YB-49 jet bomber was cancelled, Northrop received a smaller production contract for its F-89 Scorpion fighter as compensation for the lost Flying Wing contract.[16][17]

Specifications (YB-35)

General characteristics

Fuselage diameter: 9 ft 6 in (2.9 m)



See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



  1. ^ a b Knaack 1988, p. 506.
  2. ^ a b Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 93, 95, 103–6, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  3. ^ a b Winchester 2005, p. 193.
  4. ^ Allen 2003, p.5
  5. ^ Allen 2003, pp. 6–7.
  6. ^ Flight 20 March 1947, p. a.
  7. ^ Allen 2003, p. 8.
  8. ^ Gunston 1996, p. 33.
  9. ^ Swopes, Bryan R. "25 June 1946". Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  10. ^ a b c "US government microfilm A2061, XB-35 Project Report, Vols. 1–4", Air Force Case History Files. Retrieved: 29 January 2011.
  11. ^ "USAF Museum XB-35 fact sheet", Retrieved: 4 January 2010.
  12. ^ a b Winchester 2005, p. 192.
  13. ^ Wooldridge, E.T. "The Northrop Bombers." Century of Flight, 2003. Retrieved: 27 August 2011.
  14. ^ Fitzsimons 1978, p. 2282.
  15. ^ Donald 1997, p. 709.
  16. ^ Donald 1997, p. 708.
  17. ^ Jones 1975, p. 238.


  • Allen, Francis. "Before the B-2: Northrop's Flying Wings, The XB-35 and XB-49". Air Enthusiast. No. 106, July/August 2003, pp. 2–12. Stamford, UK: Key Publishing. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Coleman, Ted. Jack Northrop and the Flying Wing: The Real Story Behind the Stealth Bomber. New York: Paragon House, 1988. ISBN 1-55778-079-X.
  • Donald, David, ed. "Northrop Flying Wings". Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Etobicoke, Ontario: Prospero Books, 1997. ISBN 1-85605-375-X.
  • Fitzsimons, Bernard, ed. "Scorpion, Northrop F-89." Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare, Volume 21. London: Phoebus, 1978. ISBN 0-8393-6175-0.
  • Gunston, Bill. "Northrop's Flying Wings". Wings of Fame. Volume 2, pp. 24–37. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-874023-69-7. ISSN 1361-2034.
  • Jones, Lloyd S. U. S. Fighters. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, 1975. ISBN 0-8168-9200-8.
  • Knaack, Marcelle Size. Post-World War II Bombers, 1945–1973. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1988. ISBN 0-16-002260-6.
  • Maloney, Edward T. Northrop Flying Wings, Corona del Mar, California: World War II Publications, 1988. ISBN 0-915464-00-4.
  • O'Leary, Michael. "Wings of Northrop, Part Three." Air Classics, Volume 44, Number 2, February 2008, Challenge Publications, Inc. ISSN 0002-2241. (Heavily illustrated, authoritative XB/YB-35 article.)
  • Pape, Garry and John Campbell. Northrop Flying Wings: A History of Jack Northrop's Visionary Aircraft. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1995. ISBN 0-88740-689-0.
  • Winchester, Jim, "Northrop XB-35/YB-49". Concept Aircraft: Prototypes, X-Planes and Experimental Aircraft. Kent, UK: Grange Books plc., 2005. ISBN 978-1-84013-809-2.
  • "The Wing". Flight, 20 March 1947, pp. a–b, 241.
  • Wooldridge, E. T. Winged Wonders: The Story of the Flying Wings. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983. ISBN 0-87474-966-2.

External links


The Amerikabomber (English: America bomber) project was an initiative of the German Reichsluftfahrtministerium to obtain a long-range strategic bomber for the Luftwaffe that would be capable of striking the United States from Germany, a round-trip distance of about 11,600 km (7,200 mi). The concept was raised as early as 1938, but advanced, cogent plans for such a long-range strategic bomber design did not begin to appear in Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring's offices until early 1942. Various proposals were put forward, including using the Amerikabomber to deliver proposed German nuclear weapons; these plans were all eventually abandoned as too expensive, too reliant on rapidly-diminishing materiel and production capacity, and/or technically unfeasible.


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HLA-B35, an HLA-B serotype

the 1950 version of the Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza

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Flying wing

A flying wing is a tailless fixed-wing aircraft that has no definite fuselage. The crew, payload, fuel, and equipment are typically housed inside the main wing structure, although a flying wing may have various small protuberances such as pods, nacelles, blisters, booms, or vertical stabilizers.Similar aircraft designs that are not, strictly speaking, flying wings, are sometimes referred to as such. These types include blended wing body aircraft, and microlights (such as the Aériane Swift), which typically carry the pilot (and engine when fitted) below the wing.

Horten brothers

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Jack Northrop

John Knudsen "Jack" Northrop (November 10, 1895 – February 18, 1981) was an American aircraft industrialist and designer, who founded the Northrop Corporation in 1939.

His career began in 1916 as a draftsman for Lockheed Aircraft Manufacturing Company (founded 1912). He joined the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1923, where in time he became a project engineer. In 1927 he rejoined Lockheed, where he was a chief engineer on the Lockheed Vega transport. He left in 1929 to found Avion Corporation, which he sold in 1930. Two years later, he founded the Northrop Corporation. This firm became a subsidiary of Douglas Aircraft in 1939, so he co-founded a second company named Northrop.

List of United States bomber aircraft

This is a list of United States bomber aircraft

List of experimental aircraft

This is a list of experimental aircraft, or aircraft used or built to conduct experiments involving aerodynamics, structural materials, propulsion systems, configuration and equipment. Prototypes, pre-production and homebuilt aircraft described as experimental but which were not used in this manner outside their own development are excluded.

List of large aircraft

This is a list of large aircraft.

The US Federal Aviation Administration defines a large aircraft as any aircraft with a certificated maximum takeoff weight of more than 12,500 lb (5,700 kg) The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) defines a large aircraft as either "an aeroplane with a maximum take-off mass of more than 5,700 kilograms (12,600 pounds) or a multi-engined helicopter."

Nakajima G10N

The Nakajima G10N Fugaku (Japanese: 富岳 or 富嶽, "Mount Fuji"), was a planned Japanese ultra-long-range heavy bomber designed during World War II. It was conceived as a method for mounting aerial attacks from Japan against industrial targets along the west coast (e.g., San Francisco) and in the Midwest (e.g., Detroit, Chicago, and Wichita) and the northeast (e.g., New York and Norfolk) of the United States. Japan's worsening war situation resulted in the project's cancellation in 1944 and no prototype was ever built.

Northrop Corporation

Northrop Corporation was a leading United States aircraft manufacturer from its formation in 1939 until its 1994 merger with Grumman to form Northrop Grumman. The company is known for its development of the flying wing design, most successfully the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

Northrop N-1M

The Northrop N-1M, also known by the nickname "Jeep", was an American experimental aircraft used in the development of the flying wing concept by Northrop Aircraft during the 1940s.

Northrop N-9M

The Northrop N-9M was an approximately one-third scale, 60-ft span all-wing aircraft used for the development of the full size, 172-ft wingspan Northrop XB-35 and YB-35 flying wing long-range, heavy bomber. First flown in 1942, the N-9M (M for Model) was the third in a lineage of all-wing Northrop aircraft designs that began in 1929 when Jack Northrop succeeded in early experiments with his single pusher propeller, twin-tailed, twin-boom, all stressed metal skin Northrop X-216H monoplane, and a decade later, the dual-propeller N-1M of 1939–1941. Northrop's pioneering all-wing aircraft would lead Northrop Grumman many years later to eventually develop the advanced B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which debuted in 1989 in US Air Force inventory.

Northrop YB-49

The Northrop YB-49 was a prototype jet-powered heavy bomber developed by Northrop Corporation shortly after World War II for service with the U.S. Air Force. The YB-49 featured a flying wing design and was a turbojet-powered development of the earlier, piston-engined Northrop XB-35 and YB-35. The two YB-49s actually built were both converted YB-35 test aircraft.

The YB-49 never entered production, being passed over in favor of the more conventional Convair B-36 piston-driven design. Design work performed in the development of the YB-35 and YB-49 nonetheless proved to be valuable to Northrop decades later in the eventual development of the B-2 stealth bomber, which entered service in the early 1990s.

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