Another one for the X files
The Boeing Canard Rotor/Wing demonstrator officially becomes X-50A
BY ERIK SIMONSEN
It's intended to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
And now the Carnard Rotor/Wing, or CRW, demonstrator - the revolutionary concept that combines the capabilities of a helicopter with those of a fixed-wing jet aircraft - joins a rich heritage of experimental champions that have fostered tremendous advances in aerospace.
The CRW, being developed by Boeing and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been assigned an official designation of X-50A.
The aircraft combines the vertical takeoff/landing capabilities of a rotorcraft with the high-subsonic cruise speed and agility of a fixed-wing airplane. As its name implies, its versatility is achieved by having a specially designed rotor for vertical takeoffs and landings that can be stopped in flight to serve as a fixed wing for jet cruise. Under an agreement with DARPA, Boeing Phantom Works has built and will flight-test two pilotless demonstrators to assess and validate the advanced rotorcraft concept.
Follow-on CRW versions could evolve into larger, piloted vehicles capable of conducting specialized missions, including reconnaissance, armed escort, urban operations, tactical air support, communications/data relay and resupply. With such flexibility, operations could originate from small-deck ships or forward bases.
"We're proud to add the X-50A designation to the CRW and our long history of experimental vehicle development at Boeing," said George Muellner, president of Boeing Phantom Works, which originally conceived the CRW and produced two prototype demonstrators. "The X-50A is another example of the kind of innovative, affordable solution that we provide to meet the future needs of our customers."
Steve Bass, X-50 program manager, said the concept is moving closer to reality and that rigorous testing is already under way.
"At our Phantom Works facility in Mesa, Ariz., Ship No. 1 is currently undergoing testing in the hover pit, and Ship No. 2 is nearly completed," said Bass. "This momentum places us on track for a first flight of the X-50A later this year."
Also known as "Dragonfly," the unmanned X-50A CRW has a length of 17.7 feet and is 6.5 feet high. The rotor blades have a diameter of 12 feet. Powered by a conventional turbofan engine, the X- 50A will utilize diverter valves to direct thrust to the rotor blade tips (for helicopter mode), or aft to the jet nozzle (for fixed wing mode). Dual bleed thrust will be used during transition.
By directing thrust through the rotor tips, the CRW concept eliminates
the need for a heavy and complex mechanical drive train, transmission
and anti-torque system. The CRW will be much lighter and simpler than
traditional rotorcraft and will therefore be much cheaper to operate and
X MARKS THE SPOT
Aviation enthusiasts may have noticed that the X-50 designation was not the next in line. But Boeing's X-50 program manager Steve Bass said that Boeing got the number out of sequence by special request because the X-50 designation is so fitting for the CRW concept - 50 percent helicopter and 50 percent airplane.
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