Convair X-6

The Convair X-6 was a design for a version of the massive Consolidated B-36 Peacekeeper that would have been powered by nuclear turbojet engines. It was abandoned at an early stage.

In February 1951 Convair received a contract to convert two B-36H bombers to use General Electric P-1 nuclear turbojet engines. This used a heat transfer reactor to produce compressed and heated air, which was then fed to one or more General Electric J47 axial-flow turbojets. In theory this would produce a bomber with almost unlimited range. A preliminary design for the X-6 was produced. The reactor and turbines would probably have been carried in pods under the wings, just as in the later models of the B-36, as in the versions of the engine that were tested on the ground the two elements were combined in a single piece of machinery. This combination of engine and aircraft soon fell out of favour, and the X-6 was cancelled in 1953.

Work continued on other nuclear powered aircraft for some time, and the original design for the North American XB-70A had been built around a combined nuclear and conventional system. Funding for nuclear powered bombers was greatly reduced in 1956, reduced again in 1959 and stopped in 1961.

Convair did carry out some work with nuclear reactors on aircraft, producing the NB-36H, which carried a small reactor in its bomb bay. This was used to investigate the impact of radiation on aircraft systems and airframes and made a number of flights in 1955-57.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 November 2017), Convair X-6 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_convair_X-6.html

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