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XP-79 Flying Ram

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XP-79 Flying Ram
Type Interceptor
Manufacturer Northrop
Designed by Jack Northrop
Maiden flight 12 September 1945
Retired 12 September 1945
Status Prototype
Primary user U.S. Army Air Force
Number built 1
Developed from Northrop MX-324

The Northrop XP-79 Flying Ram was an ambitious American design for a flying wing fighter aircraft; it had several notable design features. Among these, the pilot would operate the aircraft from a prone position – permitting the pilot to withstand much greater g-forces.

Design and development

In 1942, John K. Northrop conceived the XP-79 as a high-speed rocket powered flying wing fighter aircraft.

In January 1943, a contract for three prototypes designation XP-79 was issued by the USAAF.

To test the radical design, glider prototypes were built. One designated MX-324 was towed into the air on 5 July, 1944 by a P-38 making it the first rocket-powered aircraft built by America to fly.[1]

Pilot in prone position

Originally it was planned to use a 2,000 lbf (9 kN) thrust XCALR-2000A-1 rocket motor supplied by Aerojet that used monoethyl aniline and a red fuming nitric acid, because of the corrosive and toxic nature of the liquids, the XP-79 was built using a welded magnesium alloy monocoque structure (to protect the pilot if the plane was damaged in combat) with a 1/8 inch (3 mm) skin thickness at the trailing edge and a 3/4 inch (19 mm) thickness at the leading edge. However, the rocket motor was unsatisfactory and the aircraft was fitted with two Westinghouse 19-B (J30) turbojets instead. This lead to changing the name to XP-79B. After the failure of the rocket motor, the first two prototypes were cancelled.

Perhaps the most interesting design idea of the XP-79, and the feature which earned it the nickname "Flying Ram" was the reinforced leading edges on the wings. It was envisioned that the XP-79 might actually employ the combat tactic of deliberately colliding with enemy aircraft — perhaps diving into them from above. The idea was that the reinforced XP-79 would slice through the enemy aircraft, perhaps at the wing or tailboom, causing it to crash, but that the XP-79 itself would survive the encounter.

The pilot controlled the XP-79 through a tiller bar and rudders mounted below; intakes mounted at the wingtips supplied air for the unusual bellows-boosted ailerons.[2]


The XP-79 project (after delays because of bursting tires on taxiing trials on the Muroc Dry Lake) met its own doom on 12 September, 1945 on its maiden flight when after a normal takeoff the single prototype entered an uncontrollable spin 15 minutes into the flight and was lost, killing test pilot Harry Crosby (who was almost killed in a similar crash in the MX-324 two years earlier) when he was unable to bail out safely. Shortly thereafter, the project was cancelled.

Specifications (XP-79B Flying Ram)

3-view drawing

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 14 ft 0 in (4.27 m)
  • Wingspan: 28 ft 0 in (8.54 m)
  • Height: 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)
  • Wing area: 278 ft² (25.8 m²)
  • Empty weight: 5,840 lb (2,650 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 8,669 lb (3,932 kg)
  • Powerplant:Westinghouse 19B turbojet, 1,150 lbf (5.1kN) each



  • 4 x .50-cal (12.7 mm) machine guns (never fitted)


  1. Winchester 2005, p. 150.
  2. Winchester 2005, p. 151.
  • Winchester, Jim. The World's Worst Aircraft: From Pioneering Failures to Multimillion Dollar Disasters. London: Amber Books Ltd., 2005. ISBN 1-904687-34-2.

External links

Related content

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Designation sequence
XP-76 - XP-77 - XP-78 - XP-79 - P-80 - XP-81 - P-82 Related lists

See also

de:Northrop XP-79