The Bell X-16, The Plane That Never Was.

by Daniel Russ on February 25, 2012

The Bell X-16 Long Range Reconnaissance Plane

The Bell X-16


First of all the Bell X-16 was never completed. Competing against Fairchild and Martin Aircraft, Bell won the contract. Although wind tunnel test and materials tests went favorable, the fact is that the first one was 80% finished when the United States Air Force cancelled it in favor of the RB-47. Secondly, it was called the X-16 to hide its true purpose which was to over fly and spy on the Soviet Union and Communist China.


It was planned to be 60 feet long with a 115 feet wide wing-span. It would have had an extremely light airframe with a high aspect ratio and a service ceiling of around 70,000 feet. Almost 1100 square foot of wing surface would have given the plane plenty of lift and the new Pratt & Whitney J57, engine which was later used in the U2, would have given it a range of 2800 nautical miles.


The Bell X-16 Model

Bell X-16 Model


It was designated as a long range high altitude reconnaissance plane.


Sources: Wikipedia, Sharkit


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Fridenberg March 31, 2019 at 10:43 am

Hi, my dad worked on the X-16 program in the late 1950’s, I think maybe 1958. He was a research and developement engineer from Michigan and worked at Vickers corporation in Troy, MI. Do you know how I can find more information about the X-16 program? Thanks!

Daniel Russ March 31, 2019 at 10:46 am

I would try Wright Patterson AFB

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