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Rockwell-MBB X-31 (EFM)

Thrust-Vectoring Experimental Aircraft

Two Rockwell-MBB X-31 aircraft were completed to test the nuances of vectored thrust - the series flew into 2003.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 1/20/2017
The X-31 experimental aircraft was a joint development venture between Rockwell and Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB) of Germany to test the viability of thrust-vectoring hardware and software. Two prototypes were used throughout the program's run with a first-flight recorded on October 11th, 1990. Of the pair, one crashed during a test flight (the pilot ejecting safely) while the surviving member ended its days as a showpiece at the Deutsches Museum Flugwerft Schleissheim in Germany.

Many off-the-shelf components, borrowed from designs like the F-16, F-16XL, F/A-18 Hornet and B-1 bomber, made up the actual aircraft to keep development costs down and construction times short. The result was a sleek, though largely conventional, fighter design sporting well-swept, low-mounted monoplane wings (in a canard delta configuration), a single rudder and no horizontal planes at the tail (instead nose-mounted canards took over their role). A retractable undercarriage assisted ground running. The pilot was given a commanding view over the nose thanks to an elevated seating position and tear-drop-style canopy. The fuselage appeared with rounded slab sides and a deep profile.

Power was derived from a single General Electric F404-GE-400 series turbofan engine of 16,000lb thrust output, giving the airframe a maximum speed of 900 miles per hour, a service ceiling up to 40,000 feet and a rate-of-climb nearing 43,000 feet per minute. The engine was aspirated through a rectangular intake identified under the cockpit floor aft of the nose cone. The key design element of the X-31 was its jet pipe exhaust structure which incorporated three moveable panels to direct the flow of outgoing thrust. The idea was to test high Angle-of-Attack (AoA) performance during maneuvers - in this respect, the program succeeded.

Between the two prototypes, 580 flights were completed. Prototype 1 was lost on January 19th, 1995 due to ice build-up at the pitot tube resulting in incorrect data being fed to the onboard computers. Prototype 2 flew on into 2003 before being put out to pasture.


[ 2 Units ] :
Rockwell - USA / Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB) - Germany
National flag of Germany National flag of United States Germany; United States
- X-Plane / Developmental
43.34 ft (13.21 m)
23.79 ft (7.25 m)
14.60 ft (4.45 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Rockwell-MBB X-31 production model)
Empty Weight:
11,409 lb (5,175 kg)
15,939 lb (7,230 kg)
(Diff: +4,530lb)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Rockwell-MBB X-31 production model)
1 x General Electric F404-GE-400 afterburning turbofan engine developing 16,000lb of thrust.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Rockwell-MBB X-31 production model)
Maximum Speed:
901 mph (1,450 kph; 783 kts)
Service Ceiling:
40,026 feet (12,200 m; 7.58 miles)
43,000 ft/min (13,106 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Rockwell-MBB X-31 production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Rockwell-MBB X-31 production model)
X-31 - Base Series Designation; two flyable aircraft completed.

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