to test the feasibility
of nuclear-powered aircraft
was desperately trying to maintain U.S. Air Force
interest in the B-36
platform, and in the 1950s
" was the magic word
. A proposal was to convert the swept-wing
, jet-powered B-36G
(later designated the YB-60
) to nuclear
Thankfully, the X-6 never actually materialized. The Air Force did, however, supply a modified NB-36H with a 35,000 pound, 1,000 kilowatt nuclear reactor to test the effects of radiation on aircraft instruments and components. The crew was sealed off in a lead-lined compartment, looked out foot thick leaded glass windows, watched the reactor via closed-circuit TV, and if that weren't enough, they threw a 4 ton lead disc in the middle of the fuselage. A total of 47 flights were conducted, each accompanied by a C-97 transport full of armed Marines ready to parachute in and surround the aircraft in case it crashed.
By 1957, it was obvious to all parties involved that atomic-powered flight was impractical, and the project was cancelled. The NB-36H was scrapped, the radioactive parts being burned.