Northrop XP-79

The idea for Northrop XP-79 originated in 1942. John K. Northrop created this aircraft which was intended to be a near-sonic-speed flying wing fighter aircraft powered by a rocket engine. In January 1943, a contract for three prototypes designation XP-79 was issued by the USAAF. Glider prototypes were built in order to test the radical design.

Originally, a 2,000 lbf (9 kN) thrust XCALR-2000A-1 “rotojet” rocket motor supplied by Aerojet was designated to be used. It used monoethyl aniline and a red fuming nitric acid. Since, the liquids were corrosive and toxic, Northrop chose to construct the aircraft out of a non-critical war material, magnesium alloy. It featured a monocoque structure (to protect the pilot if the plane was damaged in combat) with a ⅛ in (3 mm) skin thickness at the trailing edge and a ¾ in (19 mm) thickness at the leading edge.

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Large horizontal wing surface area with twin vertical tail surfaces at rear clearly dominated the design of the XP-79. The pilot had to lie in an awkward in an unpressurized cockpit situated between the two turbojets. The theory on the basis of which such a kind of seating arrangement was conceived was that the pilot would be able to withstand more G forces upon his body, around 20 G’s. Also, to allow for a potent aerial interception platform.

Its first flight on 12 September 1945 proved fatal for the test pilot Harry Crosby because after a fifteen minutes flight, the XP-79B entered what appeared to be a normal slow roll from which it never recovered. With the destruction of the sole XP-79B, the program was canceled.

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Length: 13.98 ft (4.26 m)
Width: 37.99 ft (11.58 m)
Height: 7.58 ft (2.31 m)
Wingspan: 28 ft 0 in (8.54 m)
Performance: About MACH
Empty weight: 5,840 lb (2,650 kg)
Loaded weight: 8,669 lb (3,932 kg)
Range: 993 mi (1,598 km)
Max Speed: 547 mph (880 kmh; 475 kts)
Rate of climb: 4,000 ft/min (1,220 m/min)
Wing loading: 31 lb/ft² (153 kg/m²)
Thrust/weight: 0.27
Service Ceiling: 40,026 ft (12,200 m; 7.6 miles)
Accommodation: 1
Hard points: 0
Engine(s): 2 x Westinghouse 19B Turbojet engines delivering 1,150 lbs thrust each
Proposed Armament: 4 x 12.7 mm machine guns