X-Planes is our brand new aviation series, looking at the dangerous and thrilling world of experimental aircraft. The first 2 books in the series publish in September 2016, and we are pleased to announce four new titles for 2017.
XPL: North American X-15
The revolutionary X-15 remains the fastest manned aircraft ever to fly. Designed and built as the Space Race hotted up, the X-15 was intended to research hypersonic speeds and flights to the edge of space, and form the basis of a possible orbital spaceplane. It obliterated previous speed records, achieving Mach 6.7 and altitudes beyond the edge of space, 100km above the Earth. These ultra-high altitude flights – where the air no longer supports aerodynamic flight, and X-15 pilots relied on spacecraft-style rocket thrusters to keep control – qualified several pilots as astronauts, including Neil Armstrong. In all, the three X-15s made 199 flights, testing new technologies and techniques which helped make the Apollo missions and the Space Shuttle viable propositions.
XPL: Luftwaffe Emergency Fighters
In late 1944, the German Air Ministry organised an ‘Emergency Fighter Competition’ intended to produce designs for quick-to-build yet technically and tactically effective jet fighters capable of tackling the anticipated arrival of the B-29 Superfortress over Europe, as well as the British Mosquito and US P-38 Lightning which were appearing in ever-greater numbers.
Thus was born a cutting-edge, highly sophisticated series of aircraft designs, including the futuristic and elegant Focke-Wulf Ta 183; the extraordinary Blohm und Voss P.212, and the state-of-the-art Messerschmitt P.1101 series. As the war ended before they could be fully developed and built, none of the Emergency Fighters saw service, but these advanced aircraft would heavily influence fighter design in the early years of the Jet Age. This book includes a new colour three-view of every Emergency Fighter, plus technical art and a battlescene of how jet aerial combat might have looked if World War II had dragged on into 1946.
The TSR2 is one of the greatest 'what-if' aircraft of the Cold War, whose cancellation still generates anger and controversy among aviation fans. It was a magnificent, cutting-edge aircraft, one of the most striking of the Cold War, but it fell victim to cost overruns, overambitious requirements, and politics. Its scrapping marked the point when Britain's aerospace industry could no longer build world-class aircraft independently. More than 50 years after it first flew, it is still one of the icons of British Cold War aviation, at once representing the very peak of British aero-engineering achievement, and the most powerful symbol of its decline.
XPL: Bell X-2
Pioneering the now-standard layout for supersonic fighters, the Bell X-2 was one of the most influential research aircraft of the early Jet Age. Although it now looks like a conventional jet fighter, it was revolutionary at the time, with swept wings and a completely new type of airframe, and was capable of exploring Mach 2–3 for the first time. Designed in the late 1940s alongside the X-1 programme, Bell combined the most advanced US technology with knowledge captured from Nazi Germany to produce aircraft that were far ahead of any others in their field.
In the early 1950s the absence of adequate computers and supersonic wind-tunnel data meant that pilots could only test new technologies the hard way. Both X-2s were destroyed in crashes, killing two test pilots, but the knowledge gained from the program was invaluable in developing aircraft that could safely fly in the Mach 2–3 range. Every high-speed aircraft from the 1950s onwards, from Concorde to the SR-71 Blackbird to the hypersonic X-15, relied on data originally gained by the X-2 and its brave test pilots.
Four new additions to your 2017 wishlist? Let us know in the comments section below.