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Northrop X-4 Bantam

DAYTON, Ohio -- Northrop X-4 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Northrop X-4 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Northrop X-4 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Northrop X-4 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Restoration staff move the Northrop X-4 into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 6, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Restoration staff move the Northrop X-4 into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 6, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Restoration staff move the Northrop X-4 into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 6, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Restoration staff move the Northrop X-4 into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 6, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Restoration staff move the Northrop X-4 Bantam aircraft into position within the R&D Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in November 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Restoration staff move the Northrop X-4 Bantam aircraft into position within the R&D Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in November 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Restoration staff move the Northrop X-4 Bantam aircraft into position within the R&D Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in November 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Restoration staff move the Northrop X-4 Bantam aircraft into position within the R&D Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in November 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Restoration staff move R&D aircraft into position within the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in November 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Restoration staff move R&D aircraft into position within the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in November 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Northrop X-4 Bantam in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Northrop X-4 Bantam in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

General view of the Research and Development Gallery in the museum's fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

General view of the Research and Development Gallery in the museum's fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

DAYTON, Ohio - Northrop X-4 cockpit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - Northrop X-4 cockpit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The cockpit of the Northrop X-4 in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - The cockpit of the Northrop X-4 in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Unlike most aircraft of its time, the X-4 did not have a horizontal tail. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Unlike most aircraft of its time, the X-4 did not have a horizontal tail. (U.S. Air Force photo)

During World War II, engineers in the U.S. and UK studied semi-tailless aircraft, and the German Luftwaffe fielded the semi-tailless Me 163 (one of which is on display in the museum’s World War II Gallery). After the war ended, Northrop built two X-4s to test if this configuration could perform at transonic (near-supersonic) speeds better than conventional aircraft.

Flight testing of the X-4 began in 1948, and in 1950 both X-4s were turned over to the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), predecessor to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). The first X-4 was grounded after only 10 flights, and only the second X-4 (on display at the museum) was used in the joint USAF/NACA program. Instability of the X-4 at high speed led to the conclusion that semi-tailless aircraft were not suitable for transonic flight (with the technology then available).

The X-4 on display was transferred to the museum shortly after the program ended in 1953. It was restored by the Western Museum of Flight, Hawthorne, Calif.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
Engines:
Two Westinghouse XJ30 turbojet engines of 1,600 lbs. thrust each
Maximum speed: 640 mph
Maximum endurance: 44 minutes
Service ceiling: 44,000 feet

Click here to return to the Research & Development Gallery.

 

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