The X-53 Active Aeroelastic Wing (AAW) development program is a completed research project that was undertaken jointly by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Boeing Phantom Works and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, where the technology was flight tested on a modified F/A-18 Hornet. The program was led by a cadre of people from these organizations including Edmund W. Pendleton and Dr Ken Griffin from the Air Force, Denis Bessette and Dave Voracek from NASA Dryden, and Pete Field, Dr Jim Guffey, and Eric Reichenbach from Boeing St Louis. Gerry Miller of North American Aviation (later part of Boeing) and Jan Tulinius led the development of the initial concept during wind tunnel testing in the mid 1980s under Air Force contract. The designation "X-52" was skipped in sequence to avoid confusion with the B-52 bomber.
Design and development
AAW combines aerodynamics, active controls and advanced structures to make more efficient use of the wing planform during high-speed maneuvers. This is achieved through the use of multiple leading and trailing edge control surfaces, which are controlled by a digital flight control system to take advantage of the wings' natural tendency to twist under air load. At high speeds, these control surfaces are able to achieve high levels of control power while minimizing structural loads. When applied correctly, the wing will twist less and in an opposite direction to a conventional wing during maneuvering.
The modified F/A-18 first flew in November, 2002. It was redesignated X-53 on August 16, 2006, per memo by USAF Deputy Chief of Staff, Strategic Plans and Programs.
- Pendleton, E., Flick, P., Voracek, D., Reichenbach, E., Griffin, K., Paul, D., “The X-53, A Summary of the Active Aeroelastic Wing Flight Research Program,” Paper 07-1855, Proceedings of the 48th AIAA Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 23-26, 2007.
- Voracek, D., Pendleton, E., Reichenbach, E., Griffin, K., Welch, L., “The Active Aeroelastic Wing Flight Research Program: Summary of Technical Program & Phase I Flight Research," NATO RTO Applied Vehicle Technology Meeting on Novel Vehicle Concepts and Emerging Vehicle Technologies, Brussels, Belgium, 7-10 April 2003.
- Pendleton, E., " Active Aeroelastic Wing,” AFRL Technology Horizons, Selected Science and Technology Articles, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2000.
- Pendleton, E., Bessette, D., Field P., Miller, G., and Griffin, K., "Active Aeroelastic Wing Flight Research Program: Technical Program & Model Analytical Development ," Journal of Aircraft, Volume 37, Number 4, July-August, 2000.
- Pendleton, E., Bessette, D., Field P., Miller, G., and Griffin, K., "Active Aeroelastic Wing Flight Research Program: Technical Program & Model Analytical Development, " Paper 98-1972, Proceedings of the 39th AIAA Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference , Long Beach, California, 20-23 April 1998.
- Wilson, J.R., "A Twisted Approach to Wing Warping," Aerospace America, October 2005.
- Miller, G.D., "Active Flexible Wing (AFW) Technology," Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories, (DTIC#) TR-87-3096, February, 1988
- The Boeing Company, “The Active Aeroelastic Wing Flight Research Program (The X-53) Final Report”, Volume 1 and II, (DTIC#) AFRL-VA-WP-TR-2005-3082, October, 2005.
- Boeing Active Aeroelastic Wing page