The animation shows the asymmetric flying wing sweeping from 0° to 65° as the unmanned demonstrator accelerates Mach 0.6 to Mach 1.2.
If it flies in 2010 as planned, the OFW X-plane will be the first tailless, supersonic, variable-sweep flying wing.
The variable-sweep oblique flying wing offers the promise of combining efficient high-speed cruise and long low-speed endurance, says DARPA.
Potential applications include a long-range bomber or persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform that can penetrate enemy air defences supersonically then loiter subsonically over the target area.
Northrop was awarded the $10.3 million, 20-month contract in March 2006 for the initial preliminary-design phase of the OFW X-plane demonstrator programme.
DARPA’s vision is for a single air vehicle that can perform both a 4,600km (2,500nm)-radius ISR mission with 15h loiter at 60,000ft (18,000m) and a 1,800kg (4,000lb) payload and a bombing mission of similar radius with a Mach 2 dash, Mach 1.6 cruise and a 6,800kg payload.
Although DARPA’s stated goal is to enable the OFW to be considered as a technology option for an aircraft to be operational in the 2020 timeframe, the US Air Force is looking at more conventional configurations for its next-generation bomber, which it wants to enter service in 2018.
Graham Warwick blogs on the Oblique Flying Wing ...