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Thread: Convair NB-36H nuclear-powered bomber - photos

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    Convair NB-36H nuclear-powered bomber - photos

    Convair NB-36H experimental nuclear-powered bomber developed in the 1950s to demonstrate the feasibility of aircraft nuclear propulsion. The aircraft was powered by a 1MW reactor weighing 16,000 kgs (35,000 lbs). Only one was built.

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    More info/ vids on Project NEPA/ ANP:

    Videos for GE-ANP Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Project, NEPA

    Herb York's "Race to Oblivion": Herb York: Race to Oblivion [1970]

    Quote: On March 28, 1961 President Kennedy issued a statement cancelling the ANP program.
    In it he wrote, "Nearly 15 years and about $1 billion [app $7 billion today] have been devoted to the attempted development of a nuclear-powered aircraft; but the possibility of achieving a militarily useful aircraft in the foreseeable future is still very remote."

    Other biggie Sunk-Cost DOD projects:

    Ike inventing the "Military-Industrial Complex" term:

    Ah, yes - today Putin has his own take on the "Project Pluto/ SLAM" [canned in 1964]:
    Last edited by DIYSwede; Jun 24, 2021 at 05:26 AM. Reason: added quote & links

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    I have pondered before how could you convert nuclear heat to a conventional aircraft rotary propulsion system. Steam conversion just sounds very heavy (not to mention the weight of a nuclear reactor). There are thermal bi-metal concepts that generate voltage/current but enough to power 6 or more blades? Like these battery powered tractors, the greenies are pushing, to pull 40ton loads, for every pound of battery that is one less pound of freight.

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    Supporting Member DIYSwede's Avatar
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    @ TrickieDickie: 2 stories too weird to be fiction:

    Nothing much "conventional" about these aircraft, tho...

    From: GE-ANP Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Project, NEPA, POPSEE,* Unofficial Archives
    "The ANP studied two methods for nuclear-powered jet engines: the Direct Air Cycle and the Indirect Air Cycle.
    Pratt & Whitney attempted the Indirect Air Cycle, and General Electric in Evendale, Ohio, developed the Direct Air Cycle.
    While the Indirect Air Cycle was not able to solve the excessive weight issues,
    the Direct Air Cycle was popular because it was simple, reliable, and doable.

    Direct Air Cycle engines were able to start quickly; they worked by passing compressed air in a closed loop configuration
    through the reactor where it could be heated before moving into the turbine and returning to the reactor.
    The GE X39 engine proved to be highly successful with several upgrades made to the system at later stages of the development program."
    There was an AF/ AEC study, "Project Halitosis", looking into what allied or neutral (enroute to the USSR targets) countries might think, say or even do about this "surprise guest" of their airspace ...
    Still curious? Wall of text here:

    Even more simple:
    Project Pluto OTOH, also called "The Flying Crowbar" as to its simplicity, and should've had an [AHEM!]
    "Open Core" and thus: a VERY Direct Cycle Nuclear Ramjet, spewing out all fission products ...

    After dumping its payload (12 x 1MT H-bombs) this World's 1st TERCOM cruise missile would cruise along over the Soviets 'til the reactor melted itself out and the carcass finally plummeted to the ground.
    This "design property" was seen as a pure bonus by the Big Brass at the time, long before "environmentalists" even was a noun...
    Theory of weapon system operation:
    1) A Mach 3 shockwave from the missile at 100 ft, rupturing most of any animal's intestines below the flight path, only to be followed by:
    2) a 1 MT H-bomb dumped on your head, and finally: finishing the job off by
    3) a biggie radio-nuclide cloud soaring about, first poisoning and finally irradiating what's left. -Pretty darned simple, right?

    Quite a few remaining issues had to be solved, though - a coupla for starters:
    -Where the heck could such an airframe even be flight tested? -And what about its post-flight handling?
    There was a successful engine test at Jackass Flats NV in mid-May 1964, just before the AEC and Air Force finally pulled the plug on July, 1st. (Still in living memory and lessons learned:

    Read!: and
    Cutting the Gordian Knot
    a honorary page to the Ted Merkle, by his son Ralph (of "Open-Key Data Encryption" fame himself).

    Ah-yes: A nuclear thermo-electric Seebeck-effect generator would most certainly be a beautiful thing to behold
    (from very, VERY far away),
    but AFAIK the the efficiency of such a thermo-electric element is (today) only below 5%,
    so I guess it couldn't even sufficiently power the hefty cooling water pumps needed for its very operation:

    2 bits


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    Last edited by DIYSwede; Jun 26, 2021 at 02:06 PM. Reason: spellcheck

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