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|On March 19, 1996, NASA and industry
partner McDonnell Douglas Corporation (MDC) unveiledto
the public a new subsonic flight vehicle designated X-36.
A remotely piloted tailless research craft, the X-36 is
designed to demonstrate the feasibility of future
tailless military fighters that can achieve agility
levels superior to those oftoday's aircraft.
In the absence of a tail, control of the X-36 is accomplished by a combination of thrust vectoring (maneuvering by directing the engine's exhaust flow) and innovative aerodynamic control features. Tailless fighter configurations offer reduced weight, increased range and improvement in survivability; the X-36 program is intended to establish confidence to incorporate these technologies infuture piloted vehicles.
The unmanned X-36 is "flown" by a pilot located in a van at the flight test facility; a camera in the X-36cockpit relays instrument readings and displays to aconsole in the van. With a wing span of only 10.4 feet and a gross weight under 1,300 pounds, the X-36 is powered by a single turbofan originally designed as a cruise missile power plant.
The subscale vehicle was selected for affordability, in line with NASA's "better,cheaper, faster" approach to new aerospace developments. At 28 percent scale, it enables demonstration of all key control integration technologies at a fraction of the cost of a full scale piloted aircraft.
Designed jointly by NASA and McDonnell Douglas Corporation, the X-36 is asubscale, remotely-piloted tailless vehiclefor demonstrating technologies that couldlead to lighter, longer-ranging, more survivable, more agilemilitary fighter aircraft.
The initial X-36 was developed and built
in only28 months; a second model was under construction
at midyear 1996. The program resulted from a 1994
cost-sharing NASA/MDC agreement under which Ames Research
Centeris responsible for continued development ofcritical
technologies and MDC is responsiblefor fabrication of the
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