German-U.S. experimental aircraft X-31 at the ILA Berlin
ILA/Berlin, 10 May 2004
The X-31, the only international programme within the legendary U.S. “X”-series experimental aircraft, is displayed from May 10 to 16 at the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) Berlin. This rare technology demonstrator aircraft and outstanding proof for pioneering transatlantic efforts in the field of aviation truly is one of the attractions in this year’s ILA static display area. Thanks to the joint efforts of EADS Military Aircraft and the German Armed Forces the X-31 could be brought to Berlin.
The X-31 is the successful result of fruitful transatlantic cooperation between German and U.S. engineers, scientists, pilots and national authorities. Prime programme partners were the aerospace companies EADS (formerly MBB and Dasa, respectively) and Boeing (previously Rockwell International), the German Military Procurement Agency BWB, the U.S. agencies DARPA and NASA, and the U.S. Navy. The X-31 flight test programme was first launched in 1990 and finally concluded in April 2003. Two demonstrator aircraft have been built.
Thanks to thrust-vector control by using the deflection of the jet’s exhaust as an ‘additional control surface’, the X-31 was able to perform breath-taking flying manoeuvers, in particular at low speed and at extremely high angles of attack beyond the stall barrier, impossible for conventional aircraft.
During two separate programme phases totalling roughly 400 test flying hours, the advantages of the X-31’s three-dimensional thrust-vector control technology have been intensively flight-tested and analysed for future application. The first one, known as “Enhanced Fighter Manoeuverability (EFM)” and conducted between 1990 and 1995 at Edwards AFB/Calif. under NASA auspices, proved the superior flying qualities and agility of the X-31 over conventional fighter aircraft. In particular, the operational edge of the X-31 in the post-stall regime of the flight envelope at ultra-high angles of attack with 70 degrees and more, was one of the most remarkable results of the EFM phase. EADS was then responsible for the flight control system including the thrust-vectoring assembly.
The second phase was dubbed “VECTOR” for ‘Vectoring Extremely short take-off and landing, Control, and Tailless Operations Research’, which describes all the test objectives. Between 2001 and April 2003 the international team put the prime research focus on automatic landings at angles of attack up to 24 degrees, this time at the U.S. Navy’s Patuxent River NAS, Maryland. For this purpose, the X-31 technology demonstrator had been equipped with an extremely precise navigational system and with an EADS-developed revolutionary Flush Air Data System. VECTOR findings resulted in options to improve short-take-off and –landing capabilities for both manned or unmannedcombat aircraft and for optimised carrier-aircraft operations.
On July 15th, 2003 the German-U.S. X-31 team was awarded the well-reputed ‘Theodore-von-Karman-Award’ by the International Council for Aeronautical Sciences (ICAS) in Dayton, Ohio. This price honours outstanding achievements in the field of technological and scientific progress in multinational aerospace programmes.
After successful programme conclusion, the X-31 was transported to Germany on board of an U.S. military airlifter and reached Munich June 22nd, 2003. Following an agreement between the U.S. and the German authorities, the aircraft is displayed at the ‘Flugwerft Schleissheim’, a dependance of ‘Deutsches Museum’, Munich, for a five-year period. After that, the remarkable aircraft can be admired in an aviation museum in the U.S.
The Military Aircraft Business Unit focusses the EADS competence on high-performance combat aircraft, unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), manned mission aircraft, trainer aircraft and related ground-based equipment and is an integrated part of the EADS Defence and Security Systems Division (DS). DS, with revenues of about € 5.2 billion in 2003 and roughly 24,000 employees across nine nations, forms the defence pole within EADS. It offers integrated systems solutions to the new challenges confronting armed forces and homeland security units. It is active in the areas of military aircraft, missile systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems with manned and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), battlefield management systems, defence electronics, sensors and avionics, and related services.
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