"You mean the C-5 Galaxy?" I asked.
"Have you ever been inside one of them? Have you even seen one up close? It's the experience of a lifetime," said Tony and grinned.
"You can forget about me coming along!" Sylvia interjected. "I wouldn't set foot in one of those. But you gentlemen go!"
"You would travel on the C-5 without me," said Tony. "I have been asked to take the F-15 across. I would offer you a ride on the F-15," he said to Sylvia with a wink in his eye, "but sorry, there's no room for passengers."
"Don't even think it," said Sylvia. "I'll let you gentlemen go by yourselves with your fancy flying machines," she said and grinned back at Tony.
Thus, the project was off to a 'flying' start. The papers were signed the next day, and two days after that, at six AM, I stood in the cargo bay of the giant C-5 Galaxy transport, the biggest airplane ever built. We were all dressed up for the occasion, in regulation flight suits, ready to go. Tony asked one of the airmen to give us a tour.
"I always thought of the 747 as being big," I remarked to Tony. "But this thing... it's a flying warehouse by comparison!"
"It is that," said Tony. "The entire air show has been packed into here, including the tents, spare parts, displays, models, movie equipment, all except food and fuel."
"These suckers must cost a fortune to keep in the air," I said.
"You better believe it," said the airman, who gave us the tour.
Tony nudged me. "Consider this: When the Air Force worries about money, you can bet it's expensive."
"This is an immense effort," I muttered in reply. "If only it could do the job it was meant for!"
Our guide gave me a nasty look as I said this.
"What you see is our best shot, Pete. It's the very best of a whole lot of people," said Tony. "Everyone is doing his damnedest to prevent the outbreak of a global war."
"I certainly believe that," I replied. "This plane is an absolute marvel, I'm in awe of it."
"You haven't seen anything yet," said Tony. "Evidently you haven't seen the XB-70 Valkyrie. That thing is a real marvel in every respect. It is the fastest intercontinental bomber that has ever been built, and probably the most stunning piece of aviation engineering of all times. This thing can fly faster then three times the speed of sound. It can go for almost eight thousand miles without refueling, and reach a possible service ceiling of over eighty thousand feet. The aircraft is made almost exclusively of stainless steel and titanium. Its wing area is larger than the floor space of four average houses. It is powered by six engines burning specially engineered fuel."
"The fuel is ethyl borane," said the tour guide. "The Air Force regards it a bit expensive."
"Heh, who was counting pennies in the days when the Valkyrie flew?" said Tony. "The Valkyrie is the ultimate high-altitude bomber. It may represent the limit of what can be achieved. Absolute superiority in speed, altitude, and service range was important in the 70s. The Valkyrie is so fast, and is flying so high, that no other aircraft on Earth could catch it, except the XB-72. And all of this was developed way back in the sixties. Peter, we were truly the King of the Skies in those days, unchallenged by anyone. I tell you, this thing could fly!"
"That's just my point," I replied. "We have built those immense marvels at an evidently horrendous effort, backed up by the most leading edge research and engineering teams, and probably also by the most revolutionary manufacturing technologies that one can imagine, but are we closer towards peace, because of these enormous efforts?"
"The Valkyrie scared the pants off the Soviets, I can tell you that," said the tour guide.
"Maybe it made them less trigger-happy," said Tony. "The Valkyrie can deliver fifty tons of nuclear warheads and spread them across the Soviet Union in a single run without refueling. That's a lot of bombs Peter. The Valkyrie could carry more than a dozen complete weapons systems."
"I know what you are trying to tell me," said our tour guide to me. "We created tensions and insecurity, instead of peace."
Tony shook his head. "When the first Valkyrie flew in 1964, we were sitting on top of the world," said Tony. "We were winning the game. The game was to scare the Soviets into becoming shitless. We wanted them to surrender without war."
"But it didn't work, did it?" I interrupted Tony. "In those days, we had thirty-thousand nuclear bombs, the Soviets had five-thousand, Britain had a few hundred, and nobody else had any. We could have called the game off then, and the whole world would have celebrated the day. Now the Soviets have stacked up eight times as many than they used to have, all directed at us. They have outnumbered us by a substantial margin. Maybe we shouldn't have built the Valkyrie at all."
"We scared them so badly that they've developed the MIG-25 to intercept the Valkyrie," said the tour guide.
"The MIG-25 was designed to reach Mach-3," said Tony. "It did that. Still, it was a failure. It could maintain Mach-3 only for short spurts. It didn't measure up to the capability of the Valkyrie. The MIG-25 would have been inadequate."
"I think our superiority in the days, when we were King of the World, made us feel too comfortable," I suggested. "Our actions became too arrogant. We weren't interested in building a foundation for peace. We were determined to crush the Soviets, and we told them so with a smirk on our face. Our goal was to eradicate the evil Communist Empire that threatened our Western Empire. Nobody was talking about humanity in terms of human beings. The talk was about power and empire. Before the Soviet's had the capacity to retaliate, we had plans to wipe them off the map with atomic bombs. We were mass-producing them for this purpose. The Soviet's beat us to the punch, by developing the hydrogen bomb. They scared us, instead of us scaring them. So, we called the plan off. As far as I know, the Principle of Universal Love, was a forbidden subject in those days. There was more talk about depopulation among the ruling echelon in those days, than about peace. I suspect the Soviet's had also called our bluff, of being the King of the Sky. They had turned our Valkyrie into a paper tiger almost overnight. Didn't they do something like that? As far as I know, the Valkyrie was never put into service. Why wasn't it, Tony? It certainly wasn't a technological failure, the way you describe it. Was it too expensive to build?"
Tony shook his head reluctantly.
"It wasn't that it would have been too expensive to produce, as some people claim," said our tour guide. "Some people say that the Vietnam War was sucking up all the funding. I think the Valkyrie was canned, because it became obsolete before it could go into production. The Soviets had advanced surface to air missile technology. That's what had made the Valkyrie simply obsolete. There just wasn't any point in putting it into mass-production." The tour guide turned to Tony. "Wasn't that so?"
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