Detail View: NASA Image eXchange Collection: X-31 Quasi-Tailless (Artist Concept)

X-31 Quasi-Tailless (Artist Concept)
This is a computer enhanced artist's concept of a semi-tailless X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability Aircraft in flight. In 1994, software was installed in the X-31 to demonstrate the feasibility of stabilizing a tailless aircraft at supersonic speed, using thrust vectoring. This software allowed destabilization through the control laws of the aircraft in incremental steps to the goal of simulation 100 percent tail-off. Quasi-tailless tests began in 1994. The first phase started with supersonic evaluations at Mach 1.2. Later subsonic evaluations were performed. During the flights the aircraft was destabilized with the rudder to stability levels that would be encountered if the aircraft had a reduced size vertical tail. The X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability (EFM) demonstrator flew at the Ames- Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California (redesignated the Dryden Flight Research Center in 1994) from February 1992 until 1995 and before that at the Air Force's Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. The goal of the project was to provide design information for the next generation of highly maneuverable fighter aircraft. This program demonstrated the value of using thrust vectoring (directing engine exhaust flow) coupled with an advanced flight control system to provide controlled flight to very high angles of attack. The result was a significant advantage over most conventional fighters in close-in combat situations. The X-31 flight program focused on agile flight within the post-stall regime, producing technical data to give aircraft designers a better understanding of aerodynamics, effectiveness of flight controls and thrust vectoring, and airflow phenomena at high angles of attack. Stall is a condition of an airplane or an airfoil in which lift decreases and drag increases due to the separation of airflow. Thrust vectoring compensates for the loss of control through normal aerodynamic surfaces that occurs during a stall. Post-stall refers to flying beyond the normal stall angle of attack, which in the X-31 was at a 30-degree angle of attack. During Dryden flight testing, the X-31 aircraft established several milestones. On November 6, 1992, the X-31 achieved controlled flight at a 70-degree angle of attack. On April 29, 1993, the second X-31 successfully executed a rapid minimum-radius, 180-degree turn using a post-stall maneuver, flying well beyond the aerodynamic limits of any conventional aircraft. This revolutionary maneuver has been called the "Herbst Maneuver" after Wolfgang Herbst, a German proponent of using post-stall flight in air-to-air combat. It is also called a "J Turn" when flown to an arbitrary heading change. The aircraft was flown in tactical maneuvers against an F/A-18 and other tactical aircraft as part of the test flight program. During November and December 1993, the X-31 reached a supersonic speed of Mach 1.28. In 1994, the X-31 program installed software to demonstrate quasi-tailless operation. The X-31 flight test
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (NASA-DFRC) [ ]
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