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Boeing X-48

United States (2007)
Picture of Boeing X-48 Experimental Blended Wing Body (BWB) Drone
Picture of Boeing X-48 Experimental Blended Wing Body (BWB) Drone Picture of Boeing X-48 Experimental Blended Wing Body (BWB) Drone
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The Boeing X-48 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is intended as a data-collecting platform for research into blended wing body UAV design.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Boeing X-48 Experimental Blended Wing Body (BWB) Drone.  Entry last updated on 5/21/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Blended Wing Body (BWB) concept in aircraft involves just that - fixed wing elements contoured finely with the fuselage, this producing a "flying wing" of sorts as there is no defined break between the body and the wing mainplanes and the aircraft lacks a true tail unit. The concept features many of the benefits of a flying wing in that greater internal space means larger fuel stores and more surface area helps to create inherent lift. Collectively, these qualities increase operational range and fuel efficiency compared to more traditionally arranged aircraft. However, as with any other design venture, BWB aircraft hold technological challenges all their own which leads prominent defense contractors to pursue the merits of such aircraft through developmental platforms like the Boeing "X-48B".

BWB aircraft have been on the minds of aeronautical engineers since the early 1920s as the world recovered from The Great War, a war which saw the aircraft become a viable military component in monoplane, biplane, and triplane forms. From there, the concept evolved through great thinkers in the field and as technology allowed - straight wings gave way to swept wings and flush, all-metal skinning became the norm. In the new century, Boeing's "Phantom Works", its special projects division, began looking into furthering what was already known about BWBs and this begat the X-48.

Earlier work was completed by McDonnell Douglas and this was absorbed into Boeing records after the merger of the two powerhouses in 1997. Boeing then teamed up with engineers at NASA Langley Research Center to develop what would become the X-48. A prop-driven, remotely-controlled scale model of a BWB aircraft was flown in 1997 to prove the concept sound. However, the X-48A initiative, to include a wingspan of 35 feet, fell to naught - the product was cancelled before any physical work had taken place.

Next came the X-48B and this featured a more modest span of 20.4 feet. Dimensionally smaller than the intended A-model, the B-model was given large-area mainplanes with sweep along the leading edges. Its surface area was such that it negated use of a true tail unit. Vertical planes were instead seated at the mainplane wingtips. A mock cockpit was painted into the nose of the fuselage and three engine nacelles were affixed along the extreme aft of the aircraft's body, these housing JetCat P200 turbojets of 52 pounds thrust each. A full tricycle undercarriage was installed and the finalized design's gross weight reached about 500 pounds. Composites were used through where possible and Cranfield Aerospace of Britain was charged with its construction.


Picture of the Boeing X-48 Experimental Blended Wing Body (BWB) Drone
Picture of the Boeing X-48 Experimental Blended Wing Body (BWB) Drone


The X-48B began its testing phase in 2007 and recorded a first flight on July 20th. Cranfield Aerospace was commissioned for two demonstrators which were delivered ("Ship 1" and "Ship 2"). The X-48B was able to achieve a maximum speed of 136 miles per hour, an endurance window of 40 minutes and a service ceiling up to 10,000 feet. Since it became airborne, the X-48B has become a crucial component to Boeing Phantom Works regarding its research into BWBs.

The future prospects of the X-48B are interesting - it is intended as a scale-model version of a full-sized aircraft still to come. BWB designs could serve both military and civilian markets well if certain technical aspects can be solved and - perhaps more importantly - these two services are not averse to something completely different that traditionally-arranged aircraft. The inherent benefits of BWB aircraft are intriguing to say the least but it may take much convincing to pull off serial production commitments from entities such as the United States Air Force and major global passenger carriers. It is seen that such aircraft could effectively fulfill the role of heavy-lift transport in military service and long-haul airliner in civilian service.

Since the X-48B entered its test phase, yet another in the series was introduced - the X-48C. This entry became a modification of the X-48B before it but had been given a two-engine arrangement and was intended to test low-noise capability - a good quality for a civilian passenger hauler to be sure. The X-48C had its first flight in August of 2012 and wrapped up its test phase in April of the following year.

There are noted plans by Boeing for a dimensionally larger aircraft in the series still to come to continue research into their BWB design.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (137mph).

    Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Boeing X-48B's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
Pie graph section
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
2
2


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 2007
Type: Experimental Blended Wing Body (BWB) Drone
Manufacturer(s): Boeing - USA
Production: 2
Status: Active, In-Service
Global Operators:
United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Boeing X-48B model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
0


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
15.09 ft


Meters
4.6 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
20.41 ft


Meters
6.22 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
2.95 ft


Meters
0.9 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
430 lb


Kilograms
195 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
496 lb


Kilograms
225 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
3 x JetCat P200 turbojet engines developing 52 lb of thrust each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
137 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
220 kph


Knots
119 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
90 mi


Kilometers
145 km


Nautical Miles
78 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
10,007 ft


Meters
3,050 m


Miles
1.90 mi

Armament - Hardpoints (0):

None.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• X-48 - Base Series Designation
• X-48A - Originally planned flyable demonstrator; none built.
• X-48B - Three-engined demonstrator; two completed as Ship 1 and Ship 2.
• X-48C - Modified X-48B; twin-engined demonstrator; first flight in August 2012.