Rockwell-MBB X-31
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Rockwell-MBB X-31

The X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability (EFM) programme grew from a joint initiative in 1987 between the US Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, now renamed ARPA) and the Ministry of Defence for the then Federal Republic of Germany. Its aim was to develop a technology demonstrator to research aircraft manoeuvrability beyond normal flight parameters. It is so far the only 'X-plane' project to involve a foreign nation and was one of the first NATO collaborations to be instituted under the Nunn-Quayle Research and Development Initiative.

Studies in the early 1980s finally laid to rest any notions that the day of the dogfight was over. While it is still supremely important to kill the enemy when BVR (Beyond Visual Range), future fighter designs must be equipped with the capability to out-fly the opposition at close quarters. The X-31 was intended to research all aspects of this high-g, low-speed, post-stall flight envelope using new technology, such as vectored thrust engines. A keystone of the programme was the speed with which it progressed. Funding was approved in 1988 and 22 months later the first of two test aircraft was rolled out.

Rockwell and MBB were selected for their experience with the HIMAT and TKF-90 programmes, respectively. Both had been pursuing similar, but independent, research into highly manoeuvrable combat aircraft design and their efforts were finally merged. To keep on schedule and in budget, extensive use was made of existing systems and parts. The proven General Electric F404 turbofan was chosen as the powerplant.

The first X-31A, assembled by Rockwell, initially flew on 11 October 1990. The second followed on 19 January 1991. The thrust vectoring system had previously been static-tested on a modified F/A-18 Hornet and was first carried in flight by the X-31 A on 14 Februry 1991. Since then both aircraft have flown a consistent and detailed series of tests spurred by the proven capability of the Su-27 and MiG-29.

 ENGINE1 x General Electric F404-GE-400, 71.2kN
    Wingspan7.3 m24 ft 11 in
    Length14.9 m49 ft 11 in
    Height4.4 m14 ft 5 in
    Wing area21.0 m2226.04 sq ft
    Max. speed2750 km/h1709 mph
    Ceiling12190 m40000 ft

Jess, 07.04.2015

What was the period of design?

Thomas Hill, 15.03.2014

Great a/c being how I helped build it ,and was. the crewchief 3. Years

R.W. Little, 26.04.2011

What about AeroCommander 500B Shrike and the Grand Commanders?

R.W. Little, 26.04.2011

What about AeroCommander 500B Shrike and the Grand Commanders?

deaftom, 06.04.2011

There were follow-on plans to remove the fin and rudder and conduct trials using thrust vectoring to replace the function of vertical surfaces, but I've never seen or heard of this actually being done. Did this ever happen?

leo rudnicki, 08.05.2009

OK, let's call it 975 mph, Mach 1.28, forget kph. Not bad for a plane with paddles.

Dan, 08.05.2009

Unbelievable speed for a single engine aircraft!!!!

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