NASA CLAIMS to have demonstrated that aerodynamic drag in future high-speed civil transports (HSCTs) could be significantly reduced by the development of supersonic laminar-flow wings.

The claims follow the conclusion of the agency's Lockheed F-16XL supersonic-laminar-flow-control (SLFC) experiment at Langley Research Center, Virginia (Flight International, 1-7 November, 1995, P4).

The objective of the flight tests, part of NASA's high-speed-research programme, was to demonstrate that laminar flow could be achieved over a "significant" portion of a supersonic wing.

"We've had terrific results," says Jeffrey Lavell, project manager of the SLFC experiment. "We've obtained a large amount of data that can be used to refine our design codes and provide the US aircraft industry with the means to design SLFC wings."

A large titanium panel, perforated with more than 10 million laser-cut holes, was attached to the upper surface of the left-hand side of the F-16XL's wing. A suction system was then used to achieve laminar flow over a significant portion of the wing. Around 40 flights were carried out during 12 months, at speeds of up to Mach 2 and altitudes of between 35,000-55,000ft (10,600-16,800m).

Source: Flight International