Northrop YB-49
1947
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Northrop YB-49

The end of World War II, together with orders placed for the competing Convair B-36, sealed the fate of the piston-engine B-35, but foreseeing this possibility Northrop received approval from the USAF to modify two of the YB-35s to jet power. Redesignated YB-49, the first of these flew on 21 October 1947 with eight 1814kg thrust Allison J35 engines; the second had six 2540kg thrust Allison engines, four buried in the wings and two in underslung pods. Many complimentary reports on the YB-49 were filed by air force officers, and the service was convinced of the advantages of the all-wing configuration, but in June 1948 the second YB-49 was destroyed with the loss of its five man crew in a crash attributed to structural failure.

In spite of this the US Air Force ordered 30 modified RB-49A aircraft, one of which was to be built by Northrop and, because of that company's other commitments, 29 by Consolidated Vultee, but this order was later cancelled to provide extra funds for the B-36. The YB-35 programme continued for a while with various test airframes, but in October 1949 the whole programme was cancelled and the aircraft were scrapped. Sole survivor was the six-jet YB-49A, but just four years later this was broken up.

3-View 
Northrop YB-49A three-view drawing (556 x 319)


Specification 
 CREW6
 ENGINE8 x Allison J35-A-15, 1800kg
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight96800 kg213409 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan52.4 m172 ft 11 in
    Length16.2 m53 ft 2 in
    Wing area372 m24004.17 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed930 km/h578 mph
    Range8700 km5406 miles

Northrop YB-49

Comments1-20 21-40
William Frederick Camp, 26.02.2017

I would like to have the Names of those who were in office when the Flying was destroyed by the Goverment

Paul Scott, 21.11.2016

Amazing 'plane!

Don, 22.09.2015

My reference to the B-35 was incorrect. It should have been the YB-49. Sorry about that!

Don, 22.09.2015

A number of years ago, Clete Roberts did a documentary for TV titled "What Ever Happened to the Flying Wing". It featured the entire story of the "Wing" including one on one interview with Jack Northrop. In the documentary, Mr. Northrop reveals that he was directed by the then Secretary of Defese to enter into a merger with Convair. (Now General Dynamics). Mr. Northrop asked "What choice do I have?" He was told by the Secretary "You'll be damn sorry if you don't! Mr. Northrop contacted Convair about a merger. He determined that the terms of the agreement were so unfair to Northrop, he declined. A short time later he received a call from the Secretary informing him that the B-35 program had been cancelled. When he asked why? The Secretary said "I've had bad reports" and hung up. It was soon after that it was announced that Convair would build the B-36. Another case of politics in procurement issues.

George Jewett, 16.02.2015

I attended Northrop Aeronautical Inst. in 1947 and they let the students out of class to watch the test flight of the YB-49. It took off with Shooting Stars on it's wingtips and came around over the airstrip and pulled away from the fighters as it did a slow roll! It was and amazing plane!

George Haloulakos, CFA, 25.06.2014

The political back-room dealings as well as the technical issues that are an integral part of the YB49 Flying Wing story are covered in my new book.

HIGH FLIGHT
Aviation as a Teaching Tool for Finance,
Strategy and American Exceptionalism
By George A. Haloulakos, MBA, CFA
ISBN: 9780-1007-2738-0
Order your copy online at: ucsandiegobookstore.com
Or by phone: 858-534-4557
“Partial proceeds support aviation heritage”

Dan Ruth, 29.06.2012

I have always suspected that one of the main reasons the yb-49's were scrapped is their stealth characteristics and the concern that it had virtually no radar return! Not the kind of technology to have floating about in that era.

True history, 09.06.2012

Johannes Trautloft

The XB49 was preeceeded by the X/YB35 (designed from 1942 - preceeding the Horten).
These US planes are vastly different in performance, size, construction & purpose, being faster, longer-ranged, almost x10 the weigth, carrying a huge bombload, having more engines and crew.
To draw any parallel with the crude little steel-tube and wooden Horten fighter-bomber prototype is ridiculous.
As is any mention of the B2 and stealth.

The Horten 229/IX did not have a proper testing program.
One prototype flew as a glider version (briefly, it underwent significant modification during the 8mths it flew).
Only the 2nd prototype flew under power (for 1.5hrs) before being destroyed & killing its pilot.

A TV program showed testing of a perfectly made Horten (far from likely in 1945 Germany for a start) giving a 20% reduced detection range over a Messerschmitt 109.
Not especially stealthy at all.

The Northrop X/YB 35/49 (like Jack Northrop's earlier flying wings) are the B2's ancestors.

TERRENCE O'NEILL, 29.05.2012

I revised GM,DS! into "GOODBYE BEAUTIFUL WING", by deleting an irrelevant chapter and by adding Author's Notes at the start of each chapter, to explain it and what was going on in the world at the time... and added more facts from the records. This book is a perfect example showing us exactly HOW the corrupt military-political-inductrial 'complex' wastes billions of the People's hard earned dollars on useless hardware, trashes technical breakthroughs, endangers the country and invites wars that kill our young people... and implies what has to be done to stop it. Read Goodbye Beautiful Wing.

Johannes Trautloft, 10.04.2012

Yes, the B-49 was an interesting plane for its time, however the Horten HO-229 flying wing preceded it by a number of years. Also called the GO-229, after its primary manufacturer, the Gothawerk, the manufacture of this early stealthy aircraft was personally given the ok by Reichsfeldmarschall and Luftwaffe commanding officer Hermann Goering. It is reported that during the testing program, a Horten test pilot out flew an ME-262 pilot. Recently a full scale model of the Horten was built, bombarded with WWII radar, and it was found to be quite stealthy. Was it designed as such? It appears we'll never know.

Scott Dillinger, 17.11.2011

Can I add another probable reason for its cancelation.
The Early Atomic bombs could not fit inside its bombay, let alone some of the monsster size H-bombs then on the drawing boards. The B-36 could carry them. Also the flying wing had good high altitude performance, lets recall the featherweight B-36s could be over the target at over 50000ft. Still quite a loss, the flying wing was just ahead of its time

Terrence O'Neill, 20.10.2011

Additional to my notes above, the Wing airframe (identical for prop or jet version) had much lower wing loading, and much higher power loading than the bloated, overweight-36. it's great advantage as a bomber needing to get form the US tot he USSR Ural Mountains war plants was that the Wing could fly two miles higher than the B-36, turn inside a MiG-15 and serve as a long range escort fighter, all invisible to the nine USSR radar rings and the 19,000 USSR fighters. The lumbering B-36s would have been blasted at the border.

Paul Willson, 11.10.2011

I heard that Mr Northrop just before he died was taken to EdwardAFB and allowed to watch the B 2 fly. The problem with the flying wings was that they were too different from what pople were used to seeing. And the thecnology that manages engines , surface contols was years away. Otherwisae theYB 49 would have been operational maybe even today, look at the B 52.

KJ_Lesnick, 10.01.2011

To Greg Hightower,

What would have happened if Patton was listened to? Why was he not listened to?

Gregory J. Hightower Sr., 26.11.2010

From all the comments I have read here, politics continue to rear its ugly head. Politics is the sole reason we had the cold war for many years when we should have done what Gen Patton suggested. Gen MacArthur should have continued his plans for the Korean peninsula, possibly North Korea would not be a issue today. This aircraft given the chance would have been an excellent deterrent and who knows how much further a leap would be today. Politics and politicians need to stay out of military affairs and concentrate on national concerns if they could do that but its unfortunate they cannot even agree on something as simple as looking out for the common man.

Duane Chism, 21.10.2010

When serving in the Pentagon, I had several opportunities to visit the Smithsonian's Silver Hill facility, where a lot of the planes that would never be publicly displayed, were stored. One of the docents -- a retired military pilot -- said the real reason the wings were destroyed was because of the fact they found out they didn't show up on radar. We were afraid the Soviets would copy our wings, and they would have a strategic platform from which to bomb us with impunity. If we put out the word the wings weren't stable, and could not be made stable, and destroyed all of our experimental fleet,they wouldn't copy them. So, we destroyed all of the wings. Only one survived, a tiny one-man wing with a span of about 25 feet. It was stored in a building somewhere, had a tarp over it and it was missed when they went out wing-whacking search-and-destroy missions. It is in the Air and Space Museum.

Hal Strack, 31.08.2010

It is my understanding that the aircraft did yaw excessively early on, and was not a suitable bombing platform at the time. But it would probably have been an excellent reconnaissance vehicle, better than either the B-36 0r B-45. Gen. Bob Cardenas, who flew the second B-49 to Washington, allegedly impressing President Truman, said that the aircraft was airworthy. Later developments would have made it a safe bet to correct the inherrent directional stability deficiencies, as was much later done and proven with the B-2 flying wing. I suspect that it is true that Secretary Stuart Symington, biased in favor of the Texas based Consolidated builder of the B-36, for political reasons vindictively caused all of the airframes to be demolished, depriving us of having benefit of the advantages inherent in the design for many years. What a shame. Is it any wonder that politicians are loathed?

Tracy Cooper, 17.08.2010

According to my Grandfather who worked for Northrop at the time, they could have made all of the planes, but Mr. Northrop was told he either licence the manufacture to Consolidated or the project would be cancelled. Mr. Northrop refused the licensing demand, so with complete malice the airforce had every last plane destroyed. Not one plane was spared for posterity, and airforce animosity towards Northrup continued into the 1970s and the YF-16/YF-17 trials. It's not suprising Consolidated became Convair, which was bought by General Dynamics the maker of the F-16.

ROY CUMMINGS, 18.01.2010

AS A STUDENT AT NORTHROP AERO INSTITUTE IN 1948-9, I SAW BOTH THE B-35 AND THE B-49 FLY WITH MAX STANLEY AT THE CONTROLS. IN A PASS ACROSS THE HAWTHORNE AIRPORT THE 49) ACCOMPANIED BY TWO F-80'S ) CONSISTENTLY TURNED INSIDE THE FIGHTERS. STANLEY PUT THE WING UP ON EDGE AND CAME BACK ACROSS THE FIELD WAY AHEAD OF THE OUTCLASSED LOCKHEEDS.
I LATER SAW THE TRAGIC DEMISE OF THE WINGS ( SOME COMPLETE AND SOME STILL UNFINISHED ) AS THE COMPANY WAS FORCED TO DROP A STEEL PLATE AND GUILLETINE ALL OF THEM JUST TO KEEP JKN FROM PROVING THEIR WORTH. SEC WAR WILSON ( EX-CONVAIR VP) AND STUART SYMINGTON MADE SURE THAT CONVAIR HAD NO COMPETITION. WHAT A SHAME

paul scott, 26.08.2009

An amazing aircraft, just like the Valkyrie, Convair Hustler and the Avro Vulcan, shame it never went further. Imagine seeing something like this in the skies. Wing? Boomerang? Banana? Who cares, it was unique! Glad we got a good glimpse of it as if it were 'in service' in 'The War of the Worlds' film.

1-20 21-40

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FACTS AND FIGURES

© One theory for the YB-49 crash was that the design was not adjusted to counter the stability lost when the propellers were omitted.

© The YB-49 was powered by six jets. The last model, the YRB-49, had two of the jets in auxiliary pods under the wings.

© Curing the stability problems with the flying wings was beyond the technology of the time. Computers and fly-by-wire systems keep the modern B-2 under control.



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