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Nuclear Jet Engine prototype, INL

HTRE-3, a nucear aircraft engine prototype at the Idaho National Laboratory.

The WS-125 was a proposed super long range bomber, designed in the United States during the cold war as a nuclear aircraft and was scheduled to be named as B-72.

In 1954, the USAF issued a weapons system requirement for a nuclear-powered bomber, designated WS-125. In 1956, GE teamed up with Convair (X211 program) and Pratt & Whitney with Lockheed in competitive engine/airframe development to address the requirement.

In 1956, the USAF decided that the proposed WS-125 bomber was unfeasible as an operational strategic aircraft. Finally, after spending more than 1 billion dollars, the project was cancelled on March 28, 1961.


Two General Electric J87 turbofan engines were successfully powered to nearly full thrust using two shielded reactors. Two experimental engines complete with reactor systems,(HTRE 3 left and HTRE 1 right), are currently located at the EBR-1 facility south of the Idaho National Laboratory 43°30′42.22″N 113°0′18″W / 43.5117278°N 113.005°W / 43.5117278; -113.005.

Aircraft Reactors Arco ID 2009

Experimental HTRE reactors for nuclear aircraft, (HTRE 3 left and HTRE 1 right), on display at Idaho National Laboratory near Arco, Idaho (43°30′42.22″N 113°0′18″W / 43.5117278°N 113.005°W / 43.5117278; -113.005)

In popular cultureEdit

  • The novel Steam Bird (1984) by Hilbert Schenck explored the possibilities if the WS-124/B-72 had actually been built and put in service.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. Steam Bird at ISFDB
  • Butler, Tony (2010). American Secret Projects. Hinckley, England: Midland Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85780-331-0.

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