US Air Force Studying Performance of Wing Warping

Released on Tuesday, March 8, 2005
United States of America
F/A-18A Hornet
AAW - Active Aeroelastic Wing
NASA - National Aeronautics & Space Administration
The 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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