Customer Reviews: Valkyrie: The North American XB-70- The USA's Ill-Fated Supersonic Heavy Bomber
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North American Aviation's Mach 3 "Valkyrie" holds a place of special significance in the annals of aerospace history, and Graham M. Simons details its whole fascinating story in this superb volume. I intend it as high praise indeed when I say "Valkyrie: The North American XB-70" is a typical British aviation book. It's well-written, exhaustively researched, comprehensive in scope and filled from cover to cover with nearly 300 excellent photographs and drawings. The photos, although typically only two or three inches on a side, are exceptionally sharp and crisp, revealing detail belied by their relatively small size. As far as I know, many are previously unpublished, including numerous shots of the two aircraft under construction at the North American factory and Mr. Simons own photos of Air Vehicle 1 at the Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

The XB-70 story is one of technological advancement, military brinksmanship, contractual legerdemain and partisan politics. Although the program's original objective was to produce hundreds of sleek, nuclear-armed supersonic bombers to replace the Air Force's Boeing B-52 "Stratofortresses," it ultimately produced just two high-tech, expensive and exotic aircraft that served purely for flight testing in the multi-sonic regime. Mr. Simons traces the complex history of the program and its many twists and turns in great detail, quoting extensively from the participants and from primary source documents. Techno-geeks will savor his descriptions of the design and construction of the aircraft down to the nuts-and-bolts level in a 45-page, profusely illustrated chapter. Another lengthy section, filled with annotated drawings and photos of the onboard instrument panels and diagrams from the Flight Manual, covers what it was like to fly the XB-70 on a typical mission, from engine start to landing. Mr. Simons analyzes in detail and with many photos the tragic loss of XB-70 Air Vehicle 2 in a mid-air collision with a Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter" on June 8, 1966. He also describes the relationships between the XB-70 and Lockheed's A-12/SR-71 "Blackbird," the Soviet Sukhoi T-4, the stillborn American Supersonic Transport (SST) and the Anglo-French "Concorde" SST.

Mr. Simons includes many interesting anecdotes about procuring, designing, building and flying the "Valkyrie." For example, he rebuts the urban legend that U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson misspoke when he announced the existence of Lockheed's "Blackbird," accidentally calling it "SR-71" instead of "RS-71." He shows that Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtiss E. LeMay engineered the change to Johnson's speech. Bizarrely, however, Mr. Simons says Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects office bore the name "Skunk Works" because of the "striking black-and-white carpet in their entrance foyer." Well--maybe, but I doubt it. ALL other authors who cover the subject tell how the "Skunk Works" got its name from Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" comic strip. Perhaps Mr. Simons knows something about the name's origin that NO other author has uncovered, but again--I doubt it.

Aside from that one minor glitch, I found "Valkyrie: The North American XB-70" to be a very readable, complete and accurate reference on one of the most striking, distinctive aircraft that has ever graced the skies. This superb volume belongs on the bookshelf of every modern aviation enthusiast. I recommend it very highly.
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on April 1, 2012
I could vaguely remember the Life magazine spread on the collision of the prototype with the chase planes and the XB70 passed into history especially when the Apollo missions were taking the headlines. This book is a detailed and unbiased story of the development of the two prototypes right down to the original drawings of parts and assemblies - anyone interested in complex project development will enjoy seeing the challenges (some near catostrophic when the nose wheen circuit breaker failed) and how these were overcome - in a time when a tape recorder was the most complex measuring device available. It leaves the reader wondering how this aircraft would have performed over the decades since if it had run to production - it may have ended the cold war earlier as the Warsaw Pact had little to stop this Mach 3 manned delivery system. Buy a copy for your dad and keep it for yourself.
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on January 7, 2013
Having seen the remaining XB-70 in the USAF museum, I eagerly bought this book. It is a very complete history of the development, testing, and flights of this unique aircraft. Moreover, the author covers the politics very well, and the engineering innovations that allowed it to meet the speed and range specifications. Even though I was in the USAF at that time, I was not aware of the conflict between the A-12 and XB-70. Too bad we never built a prototype F-108; that would have been an equally interesting story! Kudos to Mr. Simons, and to Pen and Sword publishers.
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on May 13, 2013
This aircraft would have led the way for America to become the top World Country in technology had it been ordered into full production! As it was, only two of the XB-70 Mach 3 Bombers were built & only one of them is still intact and able to be seen at a museum...go see will blow you away by its shear size and technology!! If Secretary of State McNamara had not cancelled the B-70 Bomber project for use of its funds to keep the war in Vietnam going for several more years, America would have been better off with the B-70 Bomber!
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on December 25, 2013
I was sort of preoccupied during this bit of history and wanted to learn more about it. This book filled in a lot of my blank spaces. Having read about the SR-71 earlier, I was surprised to learn more about tuned air intakes, which (due to a total lack of thought on my part) I had thought was as secret as the Blackbird was. In a book about the F-4 Phantom I read later, I learned that the designers of every supersonic aircraft became very intimate with the need to tune the air intakes and the subsequent need to vary that tuning during flight. Tuned inlets and the "unstarts" which occur when that tuning fails, I learned, are common knowledge among the designers of fast aircraft and the folks who fly them. Now, that light has also shined in the darkness of my little skull...
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on November 1, 2015
First off, I'll say this book does have it's moments. There are some interesting stories here, including a rather apocryphal one linking the B-70's cancellation with the development of a bomber version of the Lockheed A-12. The excerpts from the pilots' manual were rather interesting, and gave some detailed functional insight into how the aircraft operated. There are also some interesting asides on the American SST program, the Soviet T-4, and the proposal to modify the unbuilt third XB-70 into a prototype reconnaissance aircraft.

Unfortunately, much of this book reads like a rehash of Dennis Jenkins' and Tony Landis' vastly superior Valkyrie: North American's Mach 3 Superbomber. Many of the photographs and diagrams are the same, although none are in color, and the reproduction isn't as good. While Jenkins' and Landis' tome devoted large portions to the Boeing and North American designs and their evolution, the Mach 3 interceptor designs of the period, the atomic bomber program, and the High Energy Fuel project, this book largely skims over those subjects. While "Superbomber" includes a pretty substantial chapter devoted to the offensive and defensive systems proposed for the B-70, this book breezes over them in about a page and a half. The F-108 Raptor, which was designed from the beginning to use many of the same components as the B-70, and whose cancellation adversely effected the B-70's development, is hardly even mentioned.

I suppose if you're a Valkyrie fanatic who has to own every book on the plane, you'll want this book. It does include some fascinating material, but the editing is sloppy (periods and commas swap places with random abandon), the technical material in the middle of the book grinds the narrative to a halt, and I felt like I'd read all this before when I got to the end. I seriously began to question the accuracy of the entire book when the Skunk Works are described as being named after a "striking black and white carpet" at the Lockheed plant! If you're looking for a "one stop shop" for details on the B-70, go with the Jenkins and Landis book.
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on October 26, 2015
This is a good book, and I learned a lot about one of my favorite planes, the XB-70 and the SST project. The author criticizes Robert McNamara for cancelling the B-70 bomber program and the American SST project. McNamara was wrong about many things, but he was right to cancel the B-70 because there was no military justification for it. He was also right in cancelling the SST because there was no commercial justification for it.
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on January 12, 2015
A fantastic story about a fantastic aircraft. Thoroughly researched history of the most advanced aircraft we have ever produced in this country). Great amount at detail, many, many photos (unfortunately all in black and white. Details advances made in metallurgy, coatings, propulsion that were necessary to produce what was essentially a half aircraft half spaceship marvel of flight. Full of data and background of the bomber command and Washington DC at the time it was being built. Harrowing details of the in-flight collision and aftermath.
I recommend it most highly.
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on February 16, 2016
Great book. A lot of history from the 30's to the present, addressing the different bombers (B29, B-47, B-52, B58, B36, B70, SR71, SST, etc), people (LeMay, McNamara), strategies, and technologies (aerodynamics, boron-fuels, stainless steel honeycomb). Filled with lots of detail and great pictures.

One comes to appreciate the tremendous engineering achievement that be B-70 was at a time when much engineering was still done with sliderule and pencil and paper. As a young GE engineer in the Large Jet Engine Department (Evendale, Ohio) I lived around, but was not a part of the B-70 YJ93 engine development. I still remember where I was when news came in of President Kennedy being shot, the twin towers coming down, and the loss of the second B-70 AV-2 (piloted by North American’s Chief Test Pilot Al White and Air Force Major Carl Cross) and an F104 (piloted by NASA Test Pilot Joe Walker).

I was surprised that there appeared to be little if no mention of antiaircraft missiles as the reason for the B-70 reduction from a fleet to two test prototypes. I thought that was the main reason for its cancellation at the time. The book puts the main reason as the cost savings accruing from using strategic ICBMs in place of manned penetration bombers.
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on August 8, 2014
Excellent tale of a fascinating aircraft that, had it been completed in any numbers, would have been a very difficult weapons system for any enemy to counter. Mr Simons has done an outstanding amount of very detailed information and research--far more than I had ever known about the Valkyrie. A must for any aviation historian. Additionally, Simons has provided great insight into the workings of the Defense Department as promulgated by, perhaps, one of the most despised Secretaries of Defense--Robert MacNamara. I served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1970, during that Administration, and am convinced that MacNamara caused far more unnecessary deaths of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen by his ineptitude, arrogance and complete lack of understanding of the true meaning of the word, "combat." Great read!
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