B-45 Tornado walk around

North American’s NA-130 was among the jet bomber designs submitted to the USAAF in 1944, as Allied crews began to encounter German jets over Europe – clearly, the day of the propeller driven bomber was nearing its end. Designated as the XB-45, the first of three prototypes flew in February 1947, and even with postwar cutbacks, 96 production B-45As were bought. There were numerous problems, and the Tornado lacked the B-47’s performance, but the heightening of the Cold War and the advent of smaller nuclear weapons helped save the B-45. Under Project BACKBREAKER, B-45s were refitted with extra fuel and the capability to carry nuclear stores.

Although predated by the Douglas XB-43 Jetmaster, and overshadowed by the B-47 Stratojet, North American’s B-45 was the first US jet bomber to enter operational service, and provided the newly independent USAF with a a high flying reconnaissance aircraft and tactical strike aircraft for around a decade.

B-45 on display at the NMUSAF

B-45 engines

General Electric J47 engines


“What If” North American Light Bomber B-45 outgrowth

B-45 Further Reading

Frederick Johnsen  Testbeds, Motherships and Parasites: Astonishing Aircraft From the Golden Age of Flight Test p .32: photo of an EB-45C with J79 lowered for testing; p.44 a color shot of an EB-45ZA testing a Curtiss-Wright J67.

“North American Grooms XB-45 J-P Bomber” Aviation May 1947 p.71

Photo: Closeup of an RB-45C with cameras displayed   Flying May 1951  p.124

Color artwork depicting an RB-45 in flight   Flying  May 1952  front cover

“Allison B-45 Tests J71 Jet Engine” Aviation Week January 26, 1953 p.20

Photo: B-45 (in what looks to be an overall dark paint scheme) with a Westinghouse J40 extended from the bomb bay.   Aviation Week  December 7, 1954  p.7

“Pratt & Whitney Tests JTF10A-20 on B-45” Aviation Week & Space Technology April 2, 1962 p.73

Photo: RB-45C 48-012   Air Classics  June 1982  p.63

Howard Myers, Jr.  “We Flew Tornados”  Spyplanes: America’s Covert Aircraft in Action Air Classics Special Vol. 2, 1988  Recollections of flying the RB-45C; includes a photo of one of the RAF-marked aircraft.

John W. Sheehan, Jr.   “North American B-45…The USAF’s Tornado”   Air International  November 1988  Includes a B-45C cutaway, B-45A 3-view, XB-45 and RB-45C side view drawings.

Doug Gordon  “Spies in Cold War Skies”   The Aviation Historian 16/July 2016  Includes accounts of RB-45C flights in the Far East and in RAF hands over Europe, and several color photos

B-45 at Amazon

Warpaint Books WPT118 NAA B-45 Tornado

Caracal Models Decals 1/72 Scale – B-45 Tornado for The Valom kit

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