Northrop JB-1 Bat / MX-543
As a direct result of Great Britain's experiences with the German V-1 "buzz bombs," the USAAF considered the development of similar weapons. The MX-543 program was initiated in September 1942 to use US versions of Frank Whittle's jet engine (US-named General Electric J31). In late 1943, Northrop was awarded an USAAF contract to design and develop a Flying Wing "Power Bomb". Under secret Project MX-543, two Northrop Model JB-1 air vehicles were built.
The first airframe built was the Western Museum of Flight’s JB-1 man-carrying glider. Its unusual shape earned it the name "Bat". Except for the pilot's cockpit and canopy, the JB-1 glider was the unpowered aerodynamic equivalent of the second version, the jet powered JB-1A. The JB-1 was used to explore the design's flight characteristics. It was designed to aircraft standards and being made of aluminum and magnesium it was expensive.
The JB-1 piloted version was lifted aloft as a glider by means of a tow aircraft. Tow hitches are at the tips of the two bomb containers. Only one man-carrying JB-1 was built to test the flying qualities of this flying-wing design. The center section of the JB-1 glider version included two stream-lined "torpedo-shaped" bomb containers. The center section was fabricated of formed and welded magnesium alloy plate. The wing panels were made of riveted and spot-welded aluminum alloy sheet with magnesium wingtips. The pilot's cockpit was located in the space that would be used for the jet engine installations in the unmanned JB-1A powered model.
On August 27, 1943, from Rogers Dry Lake, Northrop test pilot Harry Crosby made the initial glider flight, using airplane tows to get airborne. The machine flew satisfactorily on tow, and very nicely after cast-off, but the trouble began when the pilot tried to land. It had a tricycle gear with low-pressure tyres which projected just below the nose and the two side excrescences. The ground-cushion was so powerful that, no matter what the pilot did, the thing would rise to about 10 feet and then stall ungraciously. The only answer any-one could discover was to fly it firmly on at high speed.
Following the successful glider flights, the second model JB-1A was equipped with a pair of General Electric Type B1 turbojet engines replacing the pilot.
The JB-1A Power Bomb was designed as a ground-launched, pilotless airplane with a pre-programmed guidance system. This onboard system was to guide the Power Bomb with reasonable accuracy to a target approximately 200 miles away, at which point it was to make a terminal dive into the target zone with its bomb load. The design ordnance consisted of two 2,000-pound demolition bombs, one in each wing root container.
An unmanned JB-1 powered by an improvised General Electric B-1 turbojet with a wing span of 28 feet 4 inches (8.64 m) made its 1st flight from Eglin Field's Santa Rosa Island, Florida, on December 7, 1944, and crashed 400 yards from the rail launcher.
Later the definitive buzz bomb was built, with a single body housing the propulsive duct and 3,7001b warhead. The 30ft-span missile worked very well, but the Pentagon did not put it into the inventory.
Only 10 JB-1 airframes were built. With the successful USAAF flights of JB-2 pulsejet-powered copies of the V-1 flying bomb, the older JB-1 program was "reoriented towards pulsejet propulsion, and the remaining JB-1s were modified or completed as JB-10 missiles. Ford Motor Company provided the copy of the German V-1 pulsejet engine. Only one of the JB-10 variants was completed by the end of the war (with Ford PJ-31-1 pulsejet engine), and 1945 sled launches using 4 Tiny Tim rockets were at Muroc Field and Eglin. Finishing in June 1996, the Western Museum of Flight restored the only remaining airframe as a manned Northrop JB-1 Bat. The Western Museum of Flight’s JB-1 restoration team consisted of Rick Hilton, Alex Von Tol, and Fred Erb.