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USAF’s Weirdest Aircraft at the Research and Development Exhibit

Written by on Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The most diverse and unique section of the National Museum of the United States Air Force is undoubtedly the Research and Development exhibit. It displays some of the US military’s most secretive and advanced aircraft. While many of these aircraft were originally highly classified, they are now relics of the past. Still, these aircraft are historic icons, as they helped shape aeronautic technology.

Dominating the center space of the display is the lean and sleek XB-70 Valkyrie. Developed in the late ’50s, the Valkyrie was the USAF’s most advanced deep-penetration nuclear bomber aircraft. This six-engined aircraft was capable of maintaining speeds well over Mach 3, which made it an impossible target for enemy interceptors. Even if enemies were able to detect the Valkyrie, any attempt to shoot it down would fall mainly to a matter of luck. These capabilities ensured that the Valkyrie would be able to deliver its nuclear payload to heavily defended targets.

Next to the Valkyrie is a similar aircraft, the YF-12A. The aircraft was designed as a surveillance and spy plane during the Cold War, and it also flew at extremely high speeds to avoid enemy fire. In its day, it set a new speed record of 2,070 mph (3,331 kph). If its design looks at all familiar, that is because it was one of the ancestors of the much order cialis 20mg more famous SR-71 Blackbird.

The exhibit also contains one of the most bizarrely shaped aircraft you’ve ever seen: the Tacit Blue. Appropriately nicknamed “the Whale,” Tacit Blue’s shape gives it an extremely low radar signature, which enables it to transmit real-time battlefield information from behind enemy lines. Another oddly-shaped aircraft is the X-13 Vertijet. It was one of the first attempts at jet-powered vertical take-off and landing capabilities, a feature that has largely been integrated into the modern F-35B. While the F-35B is only capable of short take-off and vertical landings, the data obtained from the X-13 eventually led to the vectoring technology of the F-35B.

The USAF also experimented in small and lightweight aircraft. On display is an XH-20, a flimsly-looking helicopter with an empty weight of 290 lbs. They also have the lilliputian X-4 Bantam, which is only 22 feet long.

This exhibit gives visitors a taste of the high-tech, specialized, and often bizarre USAF projects. The only unfortunate thing about the exhibit is that most of these aircraft have long since retired. They offer a look at the past rather than modern-day experimental aircraft. Hopefully, the National Museum of the United States Air Force will continue to update the Research and Development exhibit with much more modern and unique experimental vehicles.

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