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Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber)


Strategic Heavy Triplane Bomber Prototype


United States | 1923



"The mammoth Barling Bomber proved a failure, being underpowered despite its use of six engines."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 01/29/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (popularly known as the "Barling Bomber") was an ambitious heavy bomber design from Walter Barling, an engineer with the United States Army Air Service. The aircraft was designed to a US Chief of Staff requirement calling for a long-range strategic bomber. Despite its advanced features, the XNBL-1 failed to impress and was limited to a single constructed prototype model. At the time of its production, the Barling Bomber was the largest aircraft in the world.

Walter Barling had already accumulated experience in the design of large aircraft with his involvement in the failed Tarrant Tabor, another multi-engine large bomber triplane design for Britain. The Tabor's legacy would be quickly sealed in a fatal crash on its first flight. Similarly, the Barling Bomber would still succeed this legacy but in itself become a failure on other levels - it was simply too big and overly ambitious for the time.

The Barling Bomber was designed with a cylindrical-shaped fuselage - in some ways reminiscent of the forthcoming Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The mammoth aircraft sported a triplane wing to which no fewer than six engines were affixed. Engines were of the Liberty L-12A type and developed roughly 420 horsepower a piece. The powerplants were arranged with four of them in a tractor "puller" layout and the remaining two utilized as "pusher" systems. Despite this impressive array of power, the XNBL-1 would be oft-remembered as being much underpowered. The triplane layout was thick with cabling and struts to maintain the weight of the engines and support itself along the fuselage sides. The wing system was mounted well behind the cockpit but just forward of the fuselage center. The empennage was made up of two horizontal tail surfaces joined by four vertical surfaces and the tailplane itself was adjustable from the cockpit.

The Barling could carry a crew between six and nine personnel. Two of these positions were reserved for the pilot and copilot. The remaining positions were assigned to crew members (including a dedicated flight engineer) to man the various onboard areas that included self-defense 7 x 7.62mm machine gun emplacements on flexible mounts. The undercarriage was adjustable to an extent - though not fully retractable - and sported no less than ten wheels. A set of wheels was fixed to the front underside of the nose to prevent the massive aircraft from rolling over onto itself. The rear portion of the aircraft fitted simple tail skid.

The single prototype Barling cost American tax payers the then-lofty sum of $500,000 and required its own $700,000 hangar to store it. This coupled with the underachieving performance of the aircraft earned the project the name of "Mitchell's Folly" due to Brigadier-General William "Billy" Mitchell's strong support. Construction was handled by the Witteman-Lewis Aircraft Corporation.

First flight was achieved on August 22, 1923 with Lieutenant H. R. Harris at the controls and only lasted a short while. Further trials unveiled the systems inherent inadequacies and inevitably forced the project to be grounded for several years until the sole prototype was purposely destroyed under the order of General H. H. Arnold in 1928 - no doubt in an effort to "hide all evidence" of the failed project from the American taxpayer. A second "improved" prototype was planned as the XNBL-2 but the lack of secure project funding made sure that this sequel never materialized.

Despite its legacy as a failed strategic heavy bomber attempt, the Barling Bomber was still a technological pioneer for its time. It is doubtful that even with its engine troubles resolved, the aircraft would have gone on to see much more under its name that it actually did. At any rate, several bomber advancements could eventually be attributed to this Walter Barling design including the use of the adjustable multi-wheel main landing gears, the aerodynamic shape of the fuselage and the idea of separating crew members in their stations across an enclosed fuselage.

Incidentally, the XNBL-1 designation stands for "eXperimental Night Bomber, Long range".

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber) Strategic Heavy Triplane Bomber Prototype.
6 x Liberty L-12A in-line engines developing 420 horsepower each.
Propulsion
96 mph
154 kph | 83 kts
Max Speed
7,726 ft
2,355 m | 1 miles
Service Ceiling
170 miles
274 km | 148 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber) Strategic Heavy Triplane Bomber Prototype.
6 to 9
(MANNED)
Crew
65.0 ft
19.81 m
O/A Length
120.0 ft
(36.58 m)
O/A Width
27.0 ft
(8.23 m)
O/A Height
2,738 lb
(1,242 kg)
Empty Weight
42,569 lb
(19,309 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber) Strategic Heavy Triplane Bomber Prototype .
7 x 7.62mm machine guns on flexible gun mountings throughout the fuselage.

Up to 5,000lb of conventional drop bombs carried.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber) family line.
XNBL-1 - Principle Prototype with S/N AS 64215.
XNBL-2 - Cancelled Second Prototype (S/N AS 64216 in 1925).
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Whitman-Lewis Aircraft Corporation - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 100mph
Lo: 50mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (96mph).

Graph Average of 75 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
1
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
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Image of the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber)
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Image of the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber)
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Image of the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber)
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Image of the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber)
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Image of the Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber)

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
GROUND ATTACK
X-PLANE
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Witteman-Lewis XNBL-1 (Barling Bomber) Strategic Heavy Triplane Bomber Prototype appears in the following collections:
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