The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has released a video animation of the planned Oblique Flying Wing X-plane demonstrator now being designed by Northrop Grumman.

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.

More coverage of the Oblique Flying Wing, including images of original concept models ...

Graham Warwick blogs on the Oblique Flying Wing ...