AFRL’s New X

Air Force Research Lab officials revealed the service’s new “X” airplane—the remotely piloted X-56A Multi-Utility Technology Testbed, jointly developed with NASA and Lockheed Martin. Featuring quick-change wings, AFRL engineers will use the experimental twin-turbojet aircraft jet to investigate control problems associated with lightweight, highly efficient wing designs, they said. Experiments with it will aid in developing high-aspect-ratio wing technology that the Air Force could apply in future transport and RPA designs, they said. The X-56A’s initial wingspan is a narrow 28 feet, and the aircraft weighs a mere 480 pounds, according to AFRL. The design incorporates an additional dorsal mounting pylon to facilitate adding a third engine or alternate wing design. Initial flights tackling gust loading and aerodynamic flutter are slated to begin this summer, said the officials. Following Air Force research, the test bed is slated to go to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California for continued experiments. (Wright-Patterson report by Tom Brown and Holly Jordan)