The Valkyrie was a plane decades ahead of its time, pushing the aeronautical engineering of the early 1960s well beyond what had been thought possible. It was even slated to become the world’s first nuclear-powered bomber.
The massive B-52 was the U.S.’s long-range strategic bomber in the 1950s, used to extend the range of nuclear weapons worldwide. The Pentagon sought an eventual replacement, a bomber that could cruise at ultra-high altitude, carry nuclear bombs, and stay aloft for extended periods.
It also needed extreme speed to escape intercepting fighters, the primary threat to long-range bombers at the time. Since no one thought ordinary jet engines could produce enough power efficiently enough to meet all those design requirements, early research focused on installing a nuclear reactor in a plane.
What if that plane had gone into production, how would air craft be different?
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