May 122011

In April 1955, Douglas drafted these unorthodox transport aircraft studies under the Model 1875 designation for the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP) project, a joint effort between the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and USAF which began in May 1951. ANP was the successor program to the Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft (NEPA) project initiated in 1946 by the Air Force. (An excellent overview of both of these projects can be found at Only two Model 1875 three-views have been found, though there may have been others drawn up.

Both studies appear to utilize major components of the company’s C-133 Cargomaster, almost certainly in an effort to minimize costs and accelerate development of a flyable vehicle. The first of these dates from April 3, 1955 and is labelled the “A.N.P. Logistic Carrier (Twin Pod),” blueprint no. 5492787. As indicated by the name, it featured a pair of huge pods outboard of a central fuselage, the forward portion of which contained the nuclear reactor (represented by a sphere with a dotted outline). Between the fuselage and pods were a pair of huge turboprops of unknown type. Facing forward, the forward portion of the left hand pod contained the cockpit, likely in an effort to keep the crew as far away from harmful radiation as possible. This gave it an interesting asymmetric quality. Both pods had clamshell doors fore and aft for easy loading.  The Twin Pod Model 1875 had a length of 181′ 6.3″, a span of 246′ 6.6″, and a height of 58′ 4″, making it a very large aircraft indeed.

The second Model 1875 study dates from April 20, 1955 and is labelled the “A.N.P. Logistic Carrier (Twin Fuselage),” blueprint no. 5492786. (Though it has an earlier blueprint number, it was finished at a later date than the previous study, not an uncommon occurrence, apparently). In this configuration study, the reactor was placed in a large streamlined fairing between a pair of fuselages. As with the Twin Pod study, a pair of powerful turboprops was located between the reactor and the fuselages, close to the aircraft centerline. The forward portion of the left hand fuselage contained the crew and both fuselages had clamshell doors in the front. Each fuselage had a 12’x12’x70′ cargo area — 10,050 ft³. An alternate configuration is shown in the upper right hand portion of the blueprint, with dual pods and booms, allowing for forward and aft loading facilities. The Twin Fuselage Model 1875 had a length of 181′ 6.3″, a span of 246′ 6.6″, and a height of 56′ 0″.

Obviously, neither of these studies left the drawing board and the ANP project was cancelled in 1961, primarily for political reasons, as many of the greatest technical challenges were being overcome. Many primary documents associated with both NEPA and ANP have been destroyed or remain classified, so we are fortunate that this pair of blueprints has survived, giving us a glimpse at the very unusual configurations which were being considered before the nuclear-powered aircraft concept was effectively abandoned in 1961. If anyone has additional information on these or related studies, feel free to comment below or email us through our Contact page.

All images from NARA Archives II, College Park, MD, RG 341

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