Manufacturer: Martin / Northrop

Model: unknown

Name: Meteor

Type: Jet interceptor


Status: Experimental

Country: United States of America

Service: U.S. Air Force

Designation: XP-65


When the Air Force started working on the first U.S. jet, the XP-59A Airacomet, it simultaneously recognized that it would be foolish to put all one's eggs in one basket, so to speak. There was a strong incentive from Air Force engineers to have a twin pod type configuration tested, "à la Gloster Meteor".

Northrop proposed a design and received a contract for two aircraft, registered 42-14499 and 42-14500. However, the Air Force soon recognized the need to have the projected XP-59B Airacomet reworked by Lockheed into the XP-80 Shooting Star? Similarly, some shortcomings in the Northrop design had to be addressed, and besides, the Air Force was anxious to use add a moderate sweep to the wing, a first on an American combat plane.

Therefore Martin Aircraft was contracted to rework the design, now called the « Meteor », both to acknowledge the original inspiration and to keep in line with the "M" names that Martin had made a tradition of. The twin-jet received the designation XP-65, which had just been left vacant after Grumman's XP-65 version of the Tigercat was cancelled.

Martin completed the first prototype, which was test-flown in secrecy early in 1944, but it crashed on that first flight. The fault clearly was on the swept wing, which no American engineer really had much knowledge of. Martin had made wrong design decisions by making the wing both swept and with a downward inclination, and the wing's structure was also found to be inappropriate for the stress and the weight it had to go through. Normally, such design faults could be discovered through intensive wind tunnel testing, but the high secrecy of the project as well as the limited time given Martin for prototyping (not to mention increasing rumors of German swept-wing fighters) led to this developmental debacle.

The construction of the second prototype, which was 80% finished, was immediately halted, and it was scrapped a few weeks later. The experience was not in vain, however, since Martin was able to use the knowledge it gained on later programs such as the XA-47 Meerkat, the XB-51 Panther, and the Meteor airliner (a reuse of the name) which failed to attract any customers.


I was taking a look at Logan Hartke's excellent Martin XB-51 and Northrop XP-61F color profiles, and the silly idea of combining them into one single aircraft dawned on me... Of course the end result owes very little to each of the original designs, but it's mostly made of bits and pieces cut, reshaped, resized from Logan's artwork. About 40 layers in all, and I accidentally merged them on saving! Needless to say that was most frustrating...

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