The RQ-4 Global Hawk is basically “an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used by the US Air Force as a surveillance aircraft.” Continue reading for the “Future Weapons” segment. The RQ-4 is powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine with 31.4 kN (3,200 kgf / 7,050 lbf) thrust, and carries a payload of 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds). The fuselage is mostly of conventional aluminum airframe construction, while the wings are made of carbon composite. The Global Hawk costs about $35 million USD each.
Anticipating that FATE would require a flying testbed, AFRL reserved the X-39 designation and began an aggressive research program. Experiments included developing damage-resistant composite airframes and a shape-changing wing to replace hinged surfaces. Drawing on advances in computer technology, work began on artificial intelligence systems that would allow an autonomous aircraft to make minute-by-minute flight-planning decisions to accommodate revised targeting plans and unexpected changes in the weather in the combat zone. Although all of the major airframe manufacturers in business during the late 1990s were involved in some aspect of FATE, none has claimed credit for building a complete X-39. So much of the project is classified, it cannot be confirmed if the plane itself ever progressed beyond engineering studies and wind-tunnel tests. Andreas Parsch, a recognized expert on weapons designations, suggests that the aircraft that started the X-plane revolution is not a proper X-plane at all. He points out that although the X-39 designation was reserved by the Air Force, no formal written request to allocate X-39 to FATE was filed. "Therefore X-39 remained officially unassigned," he concludes. Regardless of the official standing of the X-39, there is little question of the impact of the FATE project with which it is so closely linked. "FATE served as the catalyst for Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles," says aviation historian Jay Miller. These UCAVs, as they are now commonly known, will change the face of combat itself by allowing the United States to project force farther and with greater accuracy than field commanders ever imagined possible. But to fight with such precision would require precise intelligence about enemy positions and movements. To obtain this information, other X-planes would be created to extend the battleground into space. In the days immediately after World War II, Allied intelligence made a remarkable discovery. Agents scouring German factories found plans for a piloted, winged rocket capable of reaching the United States. Space planes have fascinated aerospace designers ever since. In the 1960s, the X-15 came closest to realizing this dream, as military pilots flew to altitudes above 50 miles to earn astronaut wings. The design of the space shuttle's large delta wing was a result of the Air Force's interest in flying single-pass orbital flights over the Soviet Union--the pilots would take off and land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Launch facilities were built, but the idea proved impractical. And after the Challenger disaster the Air Force returned to relying upon expendable launch vehicles. Later, the Air Force considered using a modified version of NASA's X-33 single-stage-to-orbit space plane concept. NASA pulled the plug after more than a billion dollars of research and development. Simply put, the X-33 was too heavy to fly.
These are the airplanes that will probably be available in the next 15-30 years. We believe that the challenge to inventing future airplanes will be a thoughtful one. This is because people will begin to want airplanes that fly more often and further distances for a smaller price. Some people suggest a ground- effect plane which would have wings that trap air on top of which the plane rides.
Although you may think robot planes will be with us in the future, they are already invented. The military uses them to prevent the risk of losing a pilot's life. Some people think that we will be able to build invisible planes that will be able to fly through the air undetected to radar.
Scientists think that space planes that fly above the atmosphere would encounter little or no friction allowing them to fly at speeds of Mach 26 (26 times the speed of sound).
This speed would allow a plane to arrive in London from New York in less than 30 minutes! NASA is also trying to replace the old shuttle with the X-33 which will carry spare parts and astronauts to the International Space Station (the International Space Station will be built over the next ten years).
Boeing PelicanA concept aircraft currently under development at Boeing’s Phantom Works Research and Development unit might be the largest airplane to ever fly, but it won’t set any altitude records. Its called the Pelican and it would have a normal cruising altitude of only twenty feet because it uses the concept of ground effect to achieve lift. Performance specifications say this ground effect vehicle (GEV) will have a wingspan of 150 meters and be able to carry up to 1,400 tons of cargo. By comparison the current giant of the skies, the Russian An-225, has an 88.4-meter wingspan and can lift 250 tons.Because the plane skims the surface during flight, it is only practical over large, smooth bodies of water. Flying close to the water, the wing’s downwash angle and tip vortices are suppressed, resulting in a greatly reduced drag which leads to outstanding cruise efficiency. This would translate into a range of 10,000 nautical miles in trans-oceanic flight. Operating from paved runways, the plane has thirty-eight fuselage-mounted landing gears with seventy-six tires to distribute the weight. The Pelican is designed to be a hybrid GEV, allowing it to also fly at higher altitudes up to 20,000 feet. But the range would be greatly reduced to 6,500 nautical miles when not using the ground effect.While the Pelican is yet to become a prototype the concept is hardly a new one. For decades the Russians have experimented with aircraft they called WIG (Wing In Ground-effect) planes. A WIG craft, like the Pelican, sits on a cushion of air created by aerodynamics rather than by an engine.
A secret air war is being waged in clear California skies and in dreary Pentagon briefing rooms. It is the battle of the X-planes--some so secret they have never been photographed. The outcome of this quiet conflict will determine where and how the nation fights its future wars: in air or space, with humans or silicon chips in the cockpit. All wars simmer before they erupt. The battle of the X-planes began in the early 1990s with advances in microelectronics, completion of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the success of cruise missiles during Operation Desert Storm. Together, those developments convinced even the most conservative defense planners that it was time to change the technology of aerial combat. With this objective in mind, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began exploring new ways to fight from space. At the same time, AFRL and DARPA also embarked upon a program to alter close combat. The name of that program is Future Aircraft Technology Enhancements (FATE).
The Sonic Cruiser was born from one of numerous outline projects in a Boeing R&D program known internally as "20XX" (hinting that, had it entered production, it might have spawned a new "20 series" of Boeing aircraft), the goal of which was to look at potential designs for a possible new near-sonic or supersonic airliner. The strongest of these initial concepts was dubbed "Sonic Cruiser" and publicly unveiled on March 29, 2001, shortly after the launch of the A380 by rival Airbus. Boeing had recently withdrawn its proposed 747-X derivative from competition with the Airbus A380 when not enough airline interest was forthcoming, and instead proposed the Sonic Cruiser as a completely different approach. Instead of the A380's massive capacity, requiring a hub and spoke model of operation, the Sonic Cruiser was designed for rapid point-to-point connections for only 250 passengers. With delta wings and flying just short of the speed of sound at 0.95 Mach (about 1010 km/h or 627 mph at altitude), the Sonic Cruiser promised 20% faster speed than conventional aircraft without the noise pollution caused by supersonic Concorde's sonic boom. The aircraft would have flown at altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet, and would have possessed a range somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 nautical miles. According to Boeing's own estimates, the Sonic Cruiser would burn fuel 15-20% faster than conventional aircraft. However, it was estimated the aircraft would burn roughly the same amount of fuel as a conventional aircraft flying the same route due to the faster travel-time. The Sonic Cruiser concept originated in 1999 and a variety of concepts were studied, including supersonic aircraft, aircraft with the engines mounted above the wing, aircraft with a single vertical tail, and aircraft with rectangular intakes. The initial sketches released to the public were highly conjectural. A patent drawing filed by Boeing on March 22, 2001 put the baseline aircraft's dimensions at 250 feet in length, with a wingspan of 164.9 feet. Wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics analysis further refined the Sonic Cruiser concept. Based on artwork released by Boeing in July 2002, the Sonic Cruiser now sported two taller vertical tails with no inward cant. The forward canard was set at zero degrees dihedral. At this point, Boeing had yet to decide on the size or layout of the aircraft's fuselage cross section.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-12 was an aircraft design study undertaken by the McDonnell Douglas company in the 1990s, though it should be noted that this study was a revival of an earlier Douglas study of the 1960s for a double-decker widebody, reprinted in Air International in 2001. Initially it was to be a stretched, higher capacity version of the trijet MD-11. The design then grew into a much larger aircraft with 4 engines and two passenger decks extending the length of the fuselage, and was announced in April 1992. This was similar in concept to the future Airbus A380 and Boeing NLA, and would have been larger than the Boeing 747. Despite aggressive marketing, especially in the aviation press, no orders were placed for the aircraft, and it was quietly forgotten after the 1997 merger between McDonnell Douglas and Boeing.
The Boeing NLA, or New Large Airplane was a 1990s concept for an all-new airliner in the 500+ seat market. Somewhat larger than the 747, this aircraft was similar in concept to the Airbus A380 and McDonnell Douglas MD-12. Boeing chose not to pursue development of this concept, focusing instead on updates to the 747.
L.A. to Tokyo in Four Hours - The Future High-Speed Civil TransportNASA and its industry partners have developed a concept for a next-generation supersonic passenger jet that would fly 300 passengers at more than 1,500 miles per hour - more than twice the speed of sound. As envisioned, the High-Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) would cross the Pacific or Atlantic in less than half the time of modern subsonic jets, and at a ticket price less than 20 percent above comparable, slower flights.
Technology to make the HSCT possible is being developed as part of NASA's High-Speed Research (HSR) program, managed by NASA Langley. Langley engineers are actively involved in developing technologies for the HSCT airframe, including the materials and structures from which it will be built. Langley also leads the development team for the HSCT cockpit, which will have side windows, but no forward-facing windows.
According to studies performed by Boeing, the projected market for more than 500 HSCT's between 2000 and 2015 translates to more than $200 billion in sales, and the potential of 140,000 new jobs in the U.S.
The airplane has come a long way in its first hundred years. Fasten your seat belt for a high-tech ride into the next century of flight.
Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.
We take off into the radiance of a midwinter sun. Maj. Mark "Jocko" Johnson, a Marine Corps test pilot, shoves the throttles forward. Engines roaring, the U.S. Navy's newest and most advanced tactical aircraft, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, leaps down the runway with head-snapping acceleration. From the backseat, where I can just see over Jocko's helmet, I watch the expanse of Naval Air Station China Lake in the California desert rush at us. Our mounting speed feels like a truckload of sand pouring onto me. In less than half a mile the airplane springs aloft. Minutes later Jocko banks northward into the brown, bush-dotted fissures of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and we begin a terrain-hugging, gut-clutching ride at 540 knots—the speed of an airliner at cruise altitude. But we're only 500 feet (200 meters) above the folded landscape. He finesses the airplane through sharp turns and dodges mountain outcrops with the twitch of a wrist. When ridges appear in our path, he climbs, twists the aircraft onto its back, and curls above them, then holds us inverted for a brief count as we nose into the next valley. I tilt my head back and peer out the top of the canopy at the stony earth hurtling past.
Moths awakening in my stomach, I decline his next suggestion, something called the squirrel cage. Instead, he takes us into a high-speed loop, topping out near 20,000 feet (6,000 meters). As we plunge into the dive, with the frosted Sierra to our west and the toasted desert straight down, my queasiness suddenly vanishes. In its place, pure exuberance! I'm lost in the tumbling alchemy of earth and sky, my soul awash in the freedom, the audacity, the miracle of flight.
When powered flight turns a hundred on December 17, it's worth noting what an adventure flying still is in a world where commercial air travel has become routine, uncomfortable, sometimes torturous. On our way back to base I thank Jocko for taking me up. "I should be thanking you," he replies. "I was scheduled to fly a desk all day." His passion for his calling salutes a century of aviators all the way back to the Wright brothers, while his airplane heralds the next century of aviation. The Super Hornet and a few other new fighter planes exhibit the stealthy angles and coatings that make it difficult for radar to detect them, among aviation's most cutting-edge advances in design.
In contrast to the rapid progress in the military, the commercial airline industry has fastened its seat belts for serious economic turbulence, as evidenced by a string of layoffs and bankruptcies.
Few landings have been harder or higher profile than that of the Concorde, which just retired from service. Grounded with it is the hope for mass supersonic travel anytime soon. Instead, the Europeans are trading speed for size as they build a new superjumbo jet, the 555-seat A380.
In the 1950s airplanes got fast; in the 1980s they got stealthy; today they're getting smart. Brilliant, in fact. From the private four-seater to the massive A380, the airplane is evolving most dramatically on the inside.
In the military, computer automation has resulted in a new generation of airplanes called unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, that fly without any pilots at all. In commercial aviation the growth of automation has resulted in computers that already fly the plane from just after takeoff to landing, turning pilots into flight-systems managers. UAVs now spark debate over whether cargo planes and even airliners of the future could fly pilotless.
"Airplanes are now built to carry a pilot and a dog in the cockpit," says Arlen Rens, a Lockheed Martin test pilot. "The pilot's job is to feed the dog, and the dog's job is to bite the pilot if he touches anything.
The next evolution in commercial airliner design might just make it a lot harder to get a window seat, but the lucky few that do will have a spectacular forward view! The "flying wing" concept was created in 1961 by Sir Frederick Handley Page and Greener By Design (a group which includes Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the UK Department for Transport - they work on sustainable aviation) believes that the new airliners will start operational service in 2025 and that by 2055 they will make up a third of the world’s fleet.
The fuselage would be turned into one wing to create less drag and engines would sit on top, with the wing shielding the noise from the ground. Passengers would sit in rows of up to 40 seats across. Wings would consume only a third of the fuel used by existing aircraft. They will be constructed of plastic, rather than aluminium, to reduce their weight. The outer surface would be covered in millions of tiny holes to reduce drag by sucking in air as it flows over the wing. The impact on the world’s climate would be reduced even further by changes in the way that airlines operate. All airliners will alter their cruising altitude to avoid the conditions that form condensation trails. They could also reduce the amount of fuel they burn by flying in formation, as jet fighters do.
Boeing is working on designs for a military flying wing that will serve as a troop carrier or tanker. Cranfield University, in Bedfordshire, is producing a scale model for Boeing, which will be used for flight tests. Airbus is also working on a flying wing design under a four-year, £20 million research project that is funded by the European Union and expected to report in 2009.
some of the ways used to make the future aircraft less noisy: * putting the engines above the aircraft, so that the body of the plane itself shields the ground from noise
* embedding them in long ducts, muffled with acoustic liners, to reduce the noise
* designing an advanced engine; relocating the engines inside the airframe raises many engineering challenges.