NB-52A and NB-52B Stratofortress Launch Platforms - Lifting Bodies


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NB-52B, 52-0008 and HL-10 at Edwards AFB Open House, May 1967 The Northrop HL-10, registered N804NA, was also displayed by the NB-52B at the 1967 Edwards AFB Open House. Colonel Cotton and Major Reschke launched it on its first glide flight from the NB-52B on December 22 of 1966 with Bruce Peterson at the controls. Its stability was so poor in its original configuration that it did not fly again until March 15, 1968 after it had been modified to improve its flight characteristics. Photo by Paul Minert via Greg Spahr.

X-24A with NB-52B at 1970 Edwards AFB Open House The Martin Marietta X-24A, serial 66-13551, had made its thirteenth flight five days earlier, when it was displayed with the NB-52B at the May 19, 1970 Edwards AFB Open house. John Manke was launched by Captain Larson and Major Fornell from the NB-52B on the fourth powered flight of the X-24A. Photo by Richard Lockett Sr.

The first glide flight of the X-24A had occurred on April 17, 1969. It was piloted by Jerauld Gentry who was launched from the NB-52B by Lt Colonel Sturmthal and Captain Stroup. Lt Colonel Sturmthal and Captain Stroup then climbed into the NB-52A to launch John Manke in the HL-10 on its fifteenth flight on that same day.

The X-24A's engine was the same four-chambered XLR-11 design that had powered the X-1 on its first supersonic flight twenty three years earlier. The HL-10 and M2-F3 were also powered by the eight thousand pound thrust XLR-11 rocket engine.

The X-24A's last flight in its original configuration was its twenty-eighth flight on June 4, 1971. Manke was launched on that flight by Majors McDowell and Ranz.

The maximum speed attained during the X-24A program was mach 1.60 (1036 miles per hour) on the twenty-fifth flight on March 29, 1971 with John Manke at the controls. He had been launched from the NB-52B by Major Stroup and Captain Fritz.

The maximum altitude of the program was 71,400 feet, achieved during the nineteenth flight of the program, on October 27, 1970, also with John Manke as the pilot. The pilots of the NB-52B were Lt. Colonel Reschke and Squadron Leader Fisher.

SV-5J impersonating the X-24A at the Air Force Museum, August 1998 The Martin Marietta X-24A is represented at the Air Force Museum by the originally jet powered SV-5J, which has been reconfigured to resemble its rocket propelled sibling. It is seen here on August 16, 1998. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

Link: The SV-5J, jet powered variant of the X-24A survives in the United States Air Force Museum.

Link to NASA Dryden X-24 Photo Gallery Contact Sheet.

NB-52A, 52-0003 at MASDC, Davis-Monthan AFB, April 24, 1971 The NB-52A in storage at MASDC on April 24, 1971. The NB-52A had been retired to the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) at Davis Monthan AFB near Tucson, Arizona on October 19, 1969. The lox tank system was kept pressurized in the event that it was needed to be returned to flight status to replace the NB-52B. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

When the NB-52A was retired it had made just over 410 flights. It had launched the X-15 #1 thirty times, the X-15#2 eleven times, and the X-15#3 thirty-one times. It had launched the M2-F2 four times, the HL-10 eleven times and the X-24A twice.

All subsequent lifting body flights were launched from the NB-52B.

The X-15 mission history of the NB-52A in storage at MASDC on April 24, 1971. Horizontal profiles are captive flights, profiles angled upward are launches of the X-15.

The downward pointing X-15 in the center row corresponds to the second flight of the X-15 #3 on January 17, 1962. Majors Allavie and Bement launched Neil Armstrong (Link: NASA Dryden Biography) on an apparently uneventful flight to mach 5.51. The backward horizontal profile near the right side of the center row represents a return cross-country flight of the NB-52A with the X-15 #3 from Eglin AFB on May 5, 1962.

HL-10 and NB-2B, 52-0008 at Edwards AFB Open House, May 17, 1972 The Northrop HL-10 was displayed a the May 17, 1972 Edwards AFB Open House, which marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Air Force. It had made the last of its thirty-seven flights on July 17, 1970, with Hoag at the controls. He had been launched by Majors Fornell and Bowline. Photo by Richard Lockett Sr.

The maximum speed attained during the HL-10 program was mach 1.86 (1228 miles per hour) on the thirty-fourth flight on February 18, 1970 with Major Peter Hoag as the pilot. He had been launched from the NB-52B by Captain Fritz and Squadron Leader Fisher.

The maximum altitude of the program was 90,303 feet, achieved on February 27, 1970, during the thirty-fifth flight of the program, with Bill Dana as the pilot. The pilots of the NB-52B were Major Bowline and Captain Larson.

The HL-10 survives on a pylon in front of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB.

Link to NASA Dryden HL-10 Photo Gallery Contact Sheet.

Link to NASA Dryden HL-10 Lifting Body Fact Sheet.

M2-F3 at Edwards AFB Open House, May 16, 1973 Northrop M2-F3, registered N803NA, sits on static display at the May 16, 1973 Edwards AFB Open House next to the HL-10. Its sixteen glide flights in its original M2-F2 configuration ran from July 12, 1966 to May 10, 1967. Following Bruce Peterson's accident on the sixteenth flight, it was rebuilt with a third vertical stabilizer. Its first flight as the M2-F3 took place on June 2, 1970 with Bill Dana flying the lifting body. He had been launched from the NB-52B by Squadron Leader Fisher and Captain Fritz. The M2-F3 made twenty-seven flights after modification. The last flight was made on December 20, 1972 by John Manke, six months before this picture was taken. Photo by Richard Lockett Sr.

The maximum speed attained during the M2-F3 program was mach 1.61 (1064 miles per hour) on the twenty-sixth flight on December 13, 1972 with Bill Dana as the pilot. He had been launched from the NB-52B by Majors Luck and Fiedler.

The maximum altitude of the program was 71,500 feet, achieved on the last flight on December 20, 1972, with John Manke as the pilot. The pilots of the NB-52B were again Majors Luck and Fiedler.

Link: The M2-F3 survives in the National Air and Space Museum.

Link to the NASA Dryden M2-F2 and M2-F3 Aircraft Photo Gallery Contact Sheet.

NB-52B, 52-0008 and X-24B at Edwards AFB Open House, May 16, 1973 Martin Marrieta created an entirely new aerodynamic shape for the X-24B by building an aluminum glove over the existing X-24A airframe. It is seen here at the May 16, 1973 Edwards AFB Open House. Its first glide flight was the following August 1, piloted by John Manke. The pilots of the NB-52B were Lt. Colonel Ranz and Captain Higgins. Photo by Richard Lockett Sr.

NB-52A, 52-0003 at MASDC, Davis-Monthan AFB, November 12, 1973 Back at MASDC, the NB-52A sat unused on November 12, 1973. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

X-15 pylon on NB-52A, 52-0003 at MASDC, Davis-Monthan AFB, November 12, 1973 Close-up of the X-15 pylon on the NB-52A in MASDC on November 12, 1973. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

NB-52B, 52-0008 at Edwards AFB Open House, December 1, 1974 The NB-52B appeared at the December 1, 1974 Edwards AFB Open House in the company of the X-24B. The rear fuselage of the X-24B had been painted white. The next X-24B flight was on December 17. Lt. Colonel Michael Love piloted the X-24B to mach 1.585 (1005 miles per hour) and and altitude of 68780 feet on its eighteenth flight in its new configuration. Note the tail of KC-135A, serial 55-3135 just beyond the NB-52B. That stratotanker is still seen performing tanker demonstrations at the open house. Photo by T. Waddington via Paul Minert and Greg Spahr.

NB-52B, 52-0008 at Edwards AFB, July 1975 The NB-52B on the ramp at Edwards AFB on July 6, 1975. The mount adapter for the X-24B is attached to the X-15 pylon. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

X-24B adapter on the X-15 mount of NB-52B, 52-008 at Edwards AFB, July 6, 1975 Detail shot of the X-24B mount adapter on the NB-52B at Edwards AFB on July 6, 1975. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

X24B with NB-52B, 52-0008 at Edwards AFB Open House, November 16, 1975 After the November 16, 1975 Edwards AFB Open House, the X-24B would make two more flights on November 19 and 26. They would mark the last flights of the four-chambered XLR-11 rocket engine that had first powered the X-1 in 1947. The last flight was piloted by Captain Francis Scobee. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

The maximum speed attained during the thirty-six flights of the X-24B program was mach 1.76 (1163 miles per hour) on the sixteenth flight on October 26, 1974 with Mike Love as the pilot.

The maximum altitude of the program was 74,130 feet, achieved on the twenty-third flight on May 22, 1975, with John Manke as the pilot.

X-24B at the Air Force Museum, August 16, 1998 The Martin Marietta X-24B is displayed under the wing of the North American XB-70A Valkyrie at the Air Force Museum. It is seen here on August 16, 1998. Photographer: Brian Lockett.

Link: The X-24B survives in the United States Air Force Museum.

For more information on these wingless aircraft, link to the NASA Dryden Lifting Bodies Fact Sheet.


More NB-52B Displays

Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress dislays Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership.


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It has been asserted that the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress, carrying Air Force serial 52-0008, can lay claim to being the airplane that has seen and participated in more history than any other single airplane. For forty-five years, the NB-52B was a fixture at Edwards Air Force Base. While the NB-52B is most famous for launching the three North American X-15 rocket planes, it continued to serve in the role of launch platform for a multitude of programs until its final mission, launching the Mach-10 X-43A Hyper-X, on November 16, 2004. It was the oldest flying B-52 by nearly ten years.

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Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership
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Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

It has been asserted that the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress, carrying Air Force serial 52-0008, can lay claim to being the airplane that has seen and participated in more history than any other single airplane. For forty-five years, the NB-52B was a fixture at Edwards Air Force Base. While the NB-52B is most famous for launching the three North American X-15 rocket planes, it continued to serve in the role of launch platform for a multitude of programs until its final mission on November 16, 2004. It was the oldest flying B-52 by nearly ten years.
The NB-52B launched the three X-15 hypersonic rocket planes.
It launched the Northrop HL-10, Northrop M2-F2/F3, Martin Marietta X-24A and Martin Marietta X-24B lifting bodies.
It simulated the steep, power off approach to landing used by the Space Shuttles.
It assisted in the collection of data about wake turbulence from large aircraft.
It served as an air-to-air gunnery target.
It launched 3/8-scale F-15 Remotely Piloted Research Vehicles (RPRV) and Spin Research Vehicles (SRV).
It launched a Ryan Firebee II drone and the Ryan Firebee based Drones for Aeroelastic Structures Testing (DAST).
It launched the Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT) RPRVs.
It dropped the 48,000-pound Space Shuttle Reusable Booster Drop Test Vehicle (SRB/DTV).
It released a simulated F-111 crew module from its bomb bay to evaluate new parachute recovery systems.
It was the first airplane to launch a satellite into orbit on the Orbital Sciences Pegasus booster.
It tested the drag chute used to decelerate space shuttle orbiters.
It tested pollution reducing fuel additives with a pair of jet engines mounted under its bomb bay.
It launched the X-38 Space Station Crew Return Vehicles.
It launched the X-43A Hyper-X Supersonic Combustion Ramjets.

The book is 200 pages long. It contains 246 color photographs, 89 black and white photographs, and 2 other illustrations.

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Hardcover


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Painting Guide for the Boeing Stratofortress Motherships

Painting Guide for the Boeing Stratofortress Motherships

Painting Guide for the Boeing Stratofortress Motherships

Revell has re-released Monogram's 1/72-scale Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress with X-15A-2 kit. You need this book to help you establish the appropriate paint scheme for any particular NB-52B mission that you want to model.

The book is 96 pages long.

You can preview the first several pages of the book.

Books are printed on demand by Lulu.com. When you order one, it is placed in your Lulu.com shopping cart. Lulu.com prints, packages, and ships the book direct to you.


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Balls Eight: Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

2018 calendar

You can buy a 2018 calendar featuring photographs of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership that launched the X-15s in the 1960s and continued launching research vehicles until 2004.

Lockett Books Calendar Catalog: Balls Eight: Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

Lockett Books Calendar Catalog: Balls Eight: Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

It has been asserted that the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress, carrying Air Force serial 52-0008, can lay claim to being the airplane that has seen and participated in more history than any other single airplane. This calendar features a dozen pictures of the NB-52B carrying some of the research vehicles that it launched over the years. Photo sources: Air Force, NASA, Richard Lockett, Brian Lockett:

North American X-15-1, 1960
North American X-15-3, 1963
North American X-15A-2, 1967
Northrop HL-10, 1969
Martin-Mariettta X-24A, 1970
Northrop M2-F3, 1972
Martin-Mariettta X-24B, 1973
Orbital Sciences Pegasus, 1989
Supersonic Supercruise, 1995
X-38 V-131R, 2000
X-43A Hyper-X, 2004

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Books about Lifting Bodies, Edwards Air Force Base, and the X-15 available from

Flying Without Wings : Nasa Lifting Bodies and the Birth of the Space Shuttle by Milton O. Thompson Flying Without Wings : Nasa Lifting Bodies and the Birth of the Space Shuttle by Milton O. Thompson

Test Colors: The Aircraft of Muroc Army Airfield and Edwards Air Force Base by Rene Francillon Test Colors: The Aircraft of Muroc Army Airfield and Edwards Air Force Base by Rene Francillon

X-Planes at Edwards by Steve Pace X-Planes at Edwards (Enthusiast Color Series) by Steve Pace

Edwards Air Force Base : Open House at the USAF Flight Test Center 1957-1966 by Robert D. Archer Edwards Air Force Base : Open House at the USAF Flight Test Center 1957-1966 : A Photo Chronicle of Aircraft Displayed (Schiffer Military History) by Robert D. Archer

The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45: 3rd Edition by Jay Miller The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45: 3rd Edition by Jay Miller

Angle of Attack : Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon by Mike Gray. The biography of Harrison Storms, who was instrumental in the development and operation of the X-15.

At the Edge of Space : The X-15 Flight Program by Milton O. Thompson. The story of test flying the X-15 from the point of view of the pilot.


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