US Air Force has released that a modified US Navy F/A-18A aircraft using an
experimental flexible-wing eligible for future aircraft is undergoing flight
tests over Edwards Air Force Base, California. This cutting-edge technology
program, named Active Aeroelastic Wing (AAW) program, is aimed at demonstrating
wing warping advantages over current wing designs.
In December 2004 the program entered in the final phase of flight demonstrations
and is expected to conclude in April this year. This final phase includes around
30 flights from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards. Scientists will
evaluate the flight control system that twists the wing and controls the
airplane through aeroelastic effects.
The development team has designed control laws that take advantage of the
different inboard and outboard leading edge flaps to control them separately,
which leads to a successful exploitation of the wing's aeroelasticity. The data
collected during previous phases of AAW program was critical to develop this
innovative control system. In fact wing-twist control concept comes from the
early years of aviation, the Wright Brothers used a wing-warping control system
on the 1903 Wright Flyer.
The program started in 1996 and the US Air Force expects to provide wing warping
technologies to a wide range of air vehicles such as fighter aircraft, UAVs,
missiles, high altitude and long endurance aircraft, etc. The program is also
expected to yield additional benefits ranging from high efficiency wings in
terms of structural weight, aerodynamic efficiency to improved flight control
effectiveness. Wing warping approach could lead to minimized drag increasing the
maximum range and improving the maneuverability for a given aircraft.
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