The US Air Force’s (USAF) new X-plane, designated as an X-56A unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), has been revealed by Aviation Week.
The new X-plane, considered as the future of high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) reconnaissance aircraft, has been designed to test vital technologies including active flutter suppression and gust load alleviation.
The technologies will help in the successful development of slender, lightweight, high-aspect-ratio wings that could be used by future transports as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAVs.
Dubbed as the Multi-Use Technology Testbed (MUTT), the Lockheed Martin-designed X-56A can be configured for easy wing replacement and features stiff wings, multiple sets of flexible wings with a parachute recovery system in case a flight wing fails, and is powered by twin JetCat P240 turbojets.
The 28ft-long X-56A plane’s design enables testing of advanced aerodynamic concepts will also be used by NASA and will be the key test asset for the Air Force Research Laboratory-led Multi-utility Aeroelastic Demonstration Programme (MAD).
Currently, the X-56A is undergoing final assembly at GFMI Aerospace and Defense in California, US and will be delivered to Lockheed in late April upon which, it will be transferred to Edwards AFB, US in June 2012.
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Flight tests will be conducted by 452nd Flight Test Squadron, part of the 412th Test Wing at the North Base in July and will continue through September 2012 following which it will be delivered to NASA by the end of 2012.
Aviation Week senior editor, Guy Norris, said: "The X-56A cleverly reduces the risk of losing an entire aircraft during these risky tests, and will provide technological insights that are essential to both the Air Force and NASA."
The X-56A will support NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to assist the research of lightweight structures and advanced technology for future low-emissions transport aircraft.