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Boeing X-53 AAW (Active Aeroelastic Wing)

Experimental Aircraft

United States | 2006

"The NASA-Boeing X-53 AAW tech demonstrator was based in the FA-18A Hornet series fighter designed to prove the validity of a bending-twisting mainplane."

Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Boeing X-53 AAW (F/A-18A) Experimental Aircraft.
2 x General Electric F404-GE-400 afterburning turbofan engines developing 16,000 lb of thrust each.
1,190 mph
1,915 kph | 1,034 kts
Max Speed
49,213 ft
15,000 m | 9 miles
Service Ceiling
1,864 miles
3,000 km | 1,620 nm
Operational Range
50,000 ft/min
15,240 m/min
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Boeing X-53 AAW (F/A-18A) Experimental Aircraft.
56.1 ft
17.10 m
O/A Length
38.4 ft
(11.70 m)
O/A Width
15.3 ft
(4.65 m)
O/A Height
39,022 lb
(17,700 kg)
Notable series variants as part of the Boeing X-53 AAW (Active Aeroelastic Wing) family line.
X-53 - Base Product Designation; single example completed from F/A-18A Hornet airframe.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 11/05/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

The Boeing X-53 AAW served the Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing Phantom Works, and NASA in the study of twisting wing mainplanes through an "Active Aeroelastic Wing" (AAW) design. The concept involved the basic structure coupled to advanced controls and general aerodynamic principles to achieve the desired results (namely roll control). The airframe in question was a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A "Hornet" production carrier-based fighter modified with the new mainplanes and flew for the first time on November 15th, 2002. Only a single example was configured and tested in this manner.

The concept has been around for some time, employed by the Wright Brothers through the "wing-warping" wingtip approach for flight controlling. Utilizing a more modern approach, the NASA product relied on a twisting wing actuated by conventional ailerons and leading-edge flaps. The result was a bending, twisting wing able to provide enhanced agility through only slight movements of the surfaces.

The project got its start in 1996 and the project airframe was worked on in 2001, adding special instrumentation and components to the cockpit including a research flight control computer and data probe at the nose. Flight testing ran into 2005. The aircraft was subject to all manner of tests, both in-air and on the ground, flying at speeds between Mach 0.85 and Mach 1.3 while traversing altitudes of 5,000 feet to 25,000 feet.

The program succeeded in proving a bending/twisting wing was applicable to modern jets, allowing for the development of ever-thinner, higher-aspect ratio mainplanes that doubled-down on efficiency at varying phases of flight.

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Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Boeing X-53 AAW (Active Aeroelastic Wing). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Boeing Company / McDonnell Douglas / Northrop Grumman / NASA - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States (retired) ]
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Image of the Boeing X-53 AAW (Active Aeroelastic Wing)
Image from the NASA.gov image archives.

Going Further...
The Boeing X-53 AAW (Active Aeroelastic Wing) Experimental Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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