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"Was Kennedy Wrong to Cancel the B-70 Bomber?" Topic

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Thresher0109 Apr 2022 5:34 p.m. PST

Given the success of the SR-71 high-altitude recon aircraft at avoiding/dodging Russian SAMs, was Kennedy premature and/or wrong to cancel the Mach 3, B-70 strategic bomber program?

Apparently, over 4,000 SAMs have been fired at the SR-71s, with NO hits to speak of:


Granted, the XB-70 is/was slightly slower than the SR-71, and had a slightly lower ceiling, e.g. 79,000' vs. 90,000'+, but it appears that the Soviet SAMs are/were overrated, and even their fastest interceptors firing AAMs would have been hard-pressed to engage the B-70.

Soviet search and fire control radars of the day would have been severely challenged to engage the ultra-fast bomber too.

A lot of the Soviet jets of the 1960s and 1970s had very limited ceilings and max. speeds, not to mention short ranges and poor search and fire control radars. The long-range Tu-128 only had a Mach 1.6 speed, while the Su-15 was about Mach 2.1.

Even the Mig-25 had a very marginal to non-existent chance of catching the B-70 from behind, and only by wrecking its engines, since the safe speed for it was about Mach 2.85. It is one of the few, high-altitude Soviet interceptors that had a decent search and fire control radar. Other Soviet fighters would have had to attack from the front of the US bomber, which with early to mid Cold War AAMs, the high speed of the B-70, and powerful ECM of the period, would have been difficult to do.

The Mig-31 which replaced it, had perhaps the best chance of success vs. the Mach 3 bomber, but wasn't fielded until the early 1980s.

1. Yes
2. No
3. Don't know enough to choose

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2022 7:10 p.m. PST

In retrospect, we didn't wind up needing it, so I'm gonna say that Kennedy made the right choice. It might have been a cool plane, but you shouldn't spend millions of dollars on a weapon there's no real need for. (Not that the militaries of the world, including the US, operate by that standard.)

Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2022 7:41 p.m. PST

It was very expensive, and cancelled because of advances in ICBMs. I would say Kennedy was right to cancel because, while it would have been difficult for the Soviets to shoot down a B-70, no interceptor or SAM could shoot down an incoming ICBM warhead.

They would never have risked B-70s over conventional targets in the 60s, making them pointless hangar queens.

Grelber09 Apr 2022 8:28 p.m. PST

Parzival's comment that the XB-70 was a cool plane leads me to think that, had Kennedy let the nation's wargamers make the call, we'd have half a dozen squadrons of B-70 bombers now.


Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 4:48 a.m. PST



Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian10 Apr 2022 5:29 a.m. PST

Yeah, well no, but its fun to think about gaming with them.


Thresher0110 Apr 2022 7:11 a.m. PST

Those are some great looking aircraft, VSB.

I especially love the XB-70 and the Rapier.

I didn't know the F-108s had the droop wing tips also. I suppose I'll now need to add in some escort fighters too, if possible, just for grins.

Very nice-looking bases. ;-)

Yea, I was just thinking about doing a little strategic bomber gaming with these superfast jets, as well as with some slower ones too, e.g. B-47s, B-52s, B-1s, B-58s, Valiants, Victors, Vulcans, Bears, Badgers, Blinders, Backfires, Bisons and Blackjacks.

I've been pondering doing that for some time, so need to make it happen, soon.

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian10 Apr 2022 3:56 p.m. PST

Thanks! The Xb-70 is a Lindberg kit that is like 1/193. The Phantom, Thud and Voodoo are AIM 1/200. The B-47s and F-108 are scratchbuilt.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 6:52 p.m. PST

Great picture from Virtualscratchbuilder -- thanks.

And I agree with Grelber. Heck, if Kennedy had given the decision to boys of any age, we'd have had multiple squadrons of B-70s.

Andrew Walters11 Apr 2022 9:31 a.m. PST

If we built the B-70 we would have not-built/bought/trained something else. Since the US won the Cold War it was very likely the right decision. It would have been very expensive to keep those planes flying and those crews trained. Goodness knows what it would have done to the "balance of power", MAD, and the deterrence game theory equations.

It's too bad those beautiful planes didn't get built, but it's hard to argue with success.

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