Tuesday, December 19, 2006So here's a question brought up in conversations at work.
Although X-plane designations are not necessarily released in numerical sequence by the USAF/XPPE, whenever there is a glaring hole in the sequence it sends X-plane enthusiasts into a frenzied search for clues. This is just such a case.
Late in 2005 the X-51A designation was given out to a hypersonic scramjet technology demonstrator.
Then in December of 2006 the USAF announces the X-53 designation being granted to the Active Aeroelastic Wing technology demonstrator, essentially an F-18 with morphing wings.
The glaring hole being exposed is of course the X-52;
Does it exist?
What would it be?
If I had to guess with no further information at my disposal, I would probably go with a revisit to the Turbojet/Ramjet Combined Cycle Engine. Some of you enthusiasts may recall that the SR-71's PW J-58's were Turbojet/Ramjet Combined Cycle Engines.
Combined cycle engine technology is being refreshed and refined for the Falcon project - and recently it was announced that the Falcon HTV-1 was not going to fly but the HTV-2 was being developed for flight. The purpose being to have one air-breathing unit take the vehicle from take-off to subsonic flight to a speed fast enough to ignite a scramjet.
Could such an X-plane demonstrator be in the works?
If there is an X-52, what do YOU think it is?
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio
Air Force Research Laboratory researchers recently received word that the Active Aeroelastic Wing (AAW) flight demonstrator has been assigned the Mission Design Series number X-53. The designation makes it the first successful X plane initiated within the Air Vehicles Directorate since the X-24 lifting body concept, which was later employed on the Space Shuttle.
The AAW flight demonstrator, a joint effort between AFRL’s Air Vehicles Directorate, NASA Dryden and The Boeing Company, is a highly-modified F/A-18 fitted with AAW technology.
AAW is a novel wing concept that integrates air vehicle aerodynamics, active controls, and structures to maximize air vehicle performance. AAW technology seeks to use aeroelastic effects, which are normally detrimental to an aircraft’s performance, to the benefit of the vehicle.
Traditionally, air vehicles have been designed with stiff geometry in order to minimize aeroelastic instabilities such as aeroelastic control effectiveness. The AAW concept turns aeroelastic flexibility into a net benefit by exploiting the wings’ aeroelastic twist. AAW control surfaces control the wing aeroelastic shape at high speeds and maneuver loads at high wing strain conditions to provide large amounts of control power, or can minimize aerodynamic drag at low wing strain conditions.
Receiving the X-53 designation is an important step forward in AAW technology. The X-53 moniker gives the vehicle a higher recognition factor and will likely generate greater interest in the concept from a technology transition perspective.
The AAW concept may play a crucial role in future aircraft, such as future strike unmanned aerial vehicles and global engagement bombers.
Additional details can be found at "George's View From Below" blog.
Friday, December 08, 2006
High-energy laser weapons are a potential future upgrade for the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bomber, which is expected to remain in service beyond 2050.
Improved passive and active stealth techniques are also expected to be needed beyond 2020 to keep the type viable as a penetrating bomber, the company says.
A US Air Force advanced concepts simulation exercise in November evaluated use of a solid-state laser system for positive combat identification and self-defence.
The design concept deploys the laser from the aircraft's internal weapons bay, says Northrop programme manager Dave Mazur, and also uses its optics for target identification, as the only imaging sensor the B-2 carries is its radar.
Last year, the air force flirted with a proposal for a manned regional bomber based on Lockheed Martin’s FB-22 concept, but this has been discarded. A recent Lockheed press release included this artist's impression of LM's most recent supersonic LRS concept study.
At first glance I thought it was a Northrop Grumman FB-23 concept, but no - it's a Lockheed LRS UCAV concept.
The US Air Force has set aside $2 billion over the next several years to launch the accelerated development of a next-generation bomber that is almost certain to be unmanned and unlike anything on the ramp today.
Air force officials are confident full-scale development of an unmanned vehicle can start from 2008-10. The plan is to accelerate air vehicle technologies under development for the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems programme, but the Boeing X-45C and Northrop Grumman X-47B designs are considered inadequate for the new bomber requirement.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Cincinnati Inc. has sold four high-speed laser cutting systems this year exclusively for aerospace use. The latest system, the CL-707, features interchangeable 8 X 20-ft. cutting tables, which are twice the size of competing systems, according to the company. The CL-707 operates with a 5,000-watt GE Fanuc laser resonator that generates the cutting beam.
The laser can slice through 18-gauge steel at up to 1,000 inches per minute.
The U.S. Air Force has acquired one laser cutting system and has a second on order. Other buyers were not identified.