Did you know that there are only three
of Jack Northrops "Flying Wings" known to be
left in the world? The Western Museum of Flight is extremely
fortunate to have one of them, the Northrop JB-1 "Bat".
The other two are the Northrop N-1M at the Smithsonian National
Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., and the beautifully restored
Northrop N-9MB at the "Planes of Fame Museum," Chino,
During June 1996, the Western Museum
of Flights JB-1 restoration team consisting of Rick Hilton,
Alex Von Tol, and Fred Erb lovingly restored the Northrop JB-1
As a direct result of Great Britain's
experiences with the German V-1 "buzz bombs," the USAAF
considered the development of similar weapons. In late 1943,
Northrop was awarded an USAAF contract to design and develop
a Flying Wing "Power Bomb." Under secret Project MX-543,
two Northrop Model JB-1 air vehicles were built.
The first airframe built was the Western
Museum of Flights JB-1 man-carrying glider. Its unusual
shape earned it the name "Bat." Except for the pilot's
cockpit and canopy, the JB-1 glider was the unpowered aerodynamic
equivalent of the second version, the jet powered JB-1A (Note:
all of the 3-view drawings are of the JB-1A.) The JB-1 was used
to explore the design's flight characteristics.
The JB-1 piloted version was lifted
aloft as a glider by means of a tow aircraft. Tow hitches are
visible at the tips of the two bomb containers. Only one man-carrying
JB-1 was built to test the flying qualities of this flying-wing
design. The center section of the JB-1 glider version included
two stream-lined "torpedo-shaped" bomb containers.
The center section was fabricated of formed and welded magnesium
alloy plate. The wing panels were made of riveted and spot-welded
aluminum alloy sheet with magnesium wingtips. The pilot's cockpit
was located in the space that would be used for the jet engine
installations in the unmanned JB-1A powered model.
In 1944, Northrop test pilot Harry Crosby
made the initial glider flights out of Muroc Dry Lake, using
airplane tows to get airborne. Following the successful glider
flights, the second model JB-1A was equipped with a pair of General
Electric Type B1 turbojet engines replacing the pilot.
The JB-1A Power Bomb was designed as
a ground-launched, pilotless airplane with a pre-programmed guidance
system. This onboard system was to guide the Power Bomb with
reasonable accuracy to a target approximately 200 miles away,
at which point it was to make a terminal dive into the target
zone with its bomb load. The design ordnance consisted of two
2,000-pound demolition bombs, one in each wing root container.
(Video below of the JB-1 (MX-543) man-carrying glider)
This production video by Northrop Corporation features
first flights of Northrop Aircraft and aircrews of the N1M, N3PB,
M9M, XB-35, YB-49, XP-61, MX-543, XP-56, MX-324, JB-10, XF-15,
XF-15A, XP-79B, XP-89, X-4, YRB-49.