The weirdest planes the US military has tried to fly

  • The iconic aircraft the US Air Force has flown since World War II are still widely know.
  • What are less known are the more outlandish aircraft the military has tried to use, some of which didn’t make it to the fleet.
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A number of American planes have become classics. We know them off the top of our head: the P-51 Mustang, the F4U Corsair, the B-17 Flying Fortress. We can go on and on, and even debate amongst ourselves which planes were the coolest.

Some, though, are just plain crazy. You have to wonder Whiskey Tango Foxtrot were they thinking when they tried to fly `em. Was there ever any hope of them working? Here’s a look at a few — but just because they look crazy doesn’t mean some of them didn’t work.

McDonnell F-85 Goblin

McDonnell F-85 Goblin B-29 bomber

A McDonnell XF-85 Goblin and its EB-29 mothership.

US Air Force

Early jet fighters were a lot like sprinters. They were fast, but they didn’t have a lot of range. So some folks had the bright idea of having the bomber bring along its fighter escort. The “parasite fighter” was intended to be carried in by a bomber, be discharged, fight off enemy planes, then hook back up with the bomber.

The ultimate expression was the F-85 Goblin. This plane weighed less than 5,000 pounds, and was armed with four .50-caliber machine guns. It made a total of seven flights before the program was cancelled. Why? Aerial refueling was perfected, and making bombers trade off a lot of their payload to carry their fighter escort was no longer necessary.

Northrop B-35 and B-49


The Northrop YB-49 flying wing, a heavy bomber prototype

US Air Force

We see the B-2 today as perhaps the ultimate high-tech bomber.