DARPA moves forward on X-65 technology demonstrator

Source: DARPA

Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, has begun manufacturing work on a new X-plane for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. This latest phase follows the successful completion of the critical design review (CDR) for the experimental aircraft, designated X-65.


X-65 is purpose-designed for testing and demonstrating active flow control (AFC) for multiple effects, including flight control at tactical speeds and performance enhancement across the flight envelope. The AFC system supplies pressurized air to fourteen AFC effectors embedded across all flying surfaces, including multiple wing sweeps. The aircraft is configured to be modular, featuring replaceable outboard wings and swappable AFC effectors, which allows for future testing of additional AFC designs.



Active flow control technology has the potential to replace traditional flaps and rudders, which are used to maneuver most aircraft today. AFC may deliver benefits in areas such as aerodynamics, weight, and mechanical complexity. X-65 is designed to demonstrate the benefits of AFC for both commercial and military applications.

Component tooling and part fabrication for the 30 ft wingspan, uncrewed X-plane are now underway at Aurora facilities in West Virginia and Mississippi. Plans include building the airframe at Aurora West Virginia, followed by system integration and ground testing at Aurora’s headquarters in Manassas, Virginia.



“As we move into the manufacturing phase, we are getting ever closer to fulfilling the goal of validating AFC technology and helping to open the design trade space for future applications,” said Kevin Uleck, CRANE program director at Aurora Flight Sciences. “X-65 has the potential to change the future of aircraft design. Aurora is honored to support DARPA on this groundbreaking program.”

The manufacturing phase of the program follows three years of work, across Aurora and Boeing, in design conceptualization, preliminary and detailed design, wind tunnel testing, AFC system testing, and more. The program would culminate in flight tests of the full-scale, 7000 lb. X-65 aircraft at speeds up to Mach 0.7. Flight testing is targeted for summer 2025.



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