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Northrop YB-49

Flying Wing Bomber Prototype

Northrop YB-49

Flying Wing Bomber Prototype


The Northrop YB-49 jet bomber was an evolved form of the earlier piston-powered YB-35 flying wing design.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1947
STATUS: Cancelled
OPERATORS: United States (cancelled)

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Northrop YB-49 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 52.49 feet (16 meters)
WIDTH: 171.92 feet (52.4 meters)
HEIGHT: 20.34 feet (6.2 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 88,405 pounds (40,100 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 194,007 pounds (88,000 kilograms)
ENGINE: 8 x Allison / General Electric J35-A-5 turbojets developing 4,000 lb of thrust each.
SPEED (MAX): 493 miles-per-hour (793 kilometers-per-hour; 428 knots)
RANGE: 9,942 miles (16,000 kilometers; 8,639 nautical miles)
CEILING: 45,932 feet (14,000 meters; 8.70 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 3,758 feet-per-minute (1,145 meters-per-minute)

4 x 0.50 caliber (12.7mm) Browning M3 heavy machine guns in tail "stinger" unit.

Up to 32,000 lb of internal stores.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun

Series Model Variants
• YB-49 - Base Series Designation; three units completed with several others ending in various states of conversion/construction prior to project termination.
• YRB-49A - Proposed long-range reconnaissance model; sole example scrapped in 1953.
• RB-49A - Proposed designation for YRB-49A series in service.
• B-49 - Proposed in-service designation for YB-49 model


Detailing the development and operational history of the Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing Bomber Prototype.  Entry last updated on 1/29/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The YB-49 strategic bomber prototype came about as an extension of the ultimately-cancelled XB-35/YB-35 project. The major difference between the two lines was the YB-49's switch to an all-turbojet-powered arrangement (the B-35 series relied on radial piston engines in a "pusher" configuration). Like the XB-35/YB-35 before it, the YB-49 also eventually suffered cancellation. Just two were completed with seven more remaining in various stages of conversion from the YB-35 standard at the end.

The pre-production quality YB-35 served as the basis for two YB-49 prototypes and was part of the shift of the USAAF to jet-powered forms late in World War 2 (1939-1945). The installation of eight Allison J35 turbojets (4,000lb thrust each) provided an instant increase in performance - particularly in maximum speed and altitude while reducing the operating ranges by as much as 50% when compared to the piston-powered form. The general arrowhead design was retained and the nine-person crew was now reduced to seven.

The prototype YB-49 made its maiden flight on October 21st, 1947 and showcased a promising future in testing. All gains were lost when the second airframe crashed, killing all of its crew, on June 5th, 1948 - the wing mainplanes had become detached from the fuselage section during flight, making recovery impossible. In February of 1949, a YB-49 completed a flight from Muroc AFB to Andrews AFB covering four hours and twenty-five minutes. On its return trip, half of the engines suffered issues and were shutdown.

With the termination of the YB-35 project in 1949, the YB-49 continued on. However, another crash in March of 1950 only added to the project's woes. A nosewheel collapse being blamed for the resulting accident, fire spreading from the fully-fueled aircraft. By this time YB-35 line was already under conversion to turbojet form. On the whole, the YB-49 performed excellently despite its highly publicized issues.

Like the YB-35, the YB-49 was done in by technological challenges and politics at both the industry and governmental levels. Jack Northrop, founder of the Northrop aviation concern, would not see his dream of the flying wing realized until he received an early look at the in-development B-2 "Spirit" stealth bomber just prior to his death in 1981. The Spirit was officially introduced into service in 1997 and continues to fly today (2015).

As completed, the YB-49 featured a crew of seven and dimensions were made up of a 16 meter running length, a 52.4 meter wingspan and a 6.2 meter height. Empty weight was 40,115 kilograms against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 88,000 kilograms. Power was from 8 x Allison / General Electric J35-A-5 series turbojet engines developing 4,000 lb thrust each. Performance included a maximum speed of 495 mph, a range out to 9,980 miles (ferry), a combat radius of 1,615 miles, a service ceiling of 45,700 feet and a rate-of-climb nearing 3,760 feet-per-minute. Proposed armament was 4 x 0.50 caliber Browning M3 Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) set in a tail "stinger" position (as in the proposed XB-35/YB-35). The internal bomb load was to be 32,000 lbs, far less than the 51,000 lb war load estimated for the B-35 design.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (493mph).

Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Northrop YB-49's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (3)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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