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Bell X-16

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The Bell X-16 was an aircraft designed as a high altitude reconnaissance jet aircraft in the United States in the 1950s. A mockup of the X-16 was built, but the project was cancelled in favor of the Martin RB-57 before any X-16 aircraft were completed. The designation of X-16 was a cover to try to hide the true nature of the craft from the Soviets during the Cold War.


During the second half of 1953, Fairchild, Bell, and Martin Aircraft conducted high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft design studies for the U.S. Air Force. All three designs used Pratt & Whitney J57-P19 engines. The Bell (X-16) and Martin (B-57D) designs were chosen for further development. The Bell design was designated the X-16. The X-16 project was cancelled by the Air Force in favor of Martin RB-57 in 1956. A full-scale X-16 mockup was completed and one aircraft was partially completed. It was designed as a high-altitude long-range reconnaissance aircraft. A total of 28 aircraft were ordered, but none were completed. The first X-16 was about 80-percent complete when the program was cancelled in 1956.

The X-16 design was breaking new ground with its design. Its wing was long (114.83 feet) with a high aspect ratio (11.9). It was significantly lighter and more flexible than usual jet-aircraft wings. The entire aircraft was made as light as possible to fulfill its mission of a 3,000-mile unrefueled range at a 70,000 foot altitude.

Although no X-16 was ever completed, it made contributions to aircraft design with its lightweight design. It was also a driving force behind the development of the high-altitude J57 jet engine that would later power the Lockheed U-2 and other aircraft.

Operational history

None completed. Program cancelled in 1956.

Aircraft serial number

28 ordered, none completed.

Specifications (as designed)

Data from {name of first source}

General characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Length: 60 ft 10 in (18.55 m)
  • Wingspan: 114 ft 10 in (35 m)
  • Height: 17 ft 1 in (5.2 m)
  • Wing area: 1,099 ft² (102.19 m²)
  • Empty weight: 23,280 lb (10,582 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 36,124 lb (16,420 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney J57-PW-37A turbojets, 4,520 lbf (20.11 kN) each


See also

Comparable aircraft

Designation sequence
X-13 - X-14 - X-15 - X-16 - X-17 - X-18 - X-19

See also

de:Bell X-16 ja:X-16 (航空機) no:Bell X-16 pl:Bell X-16

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bell X-16".