From the same Boy Scout manual discussed HERE, here is an artists concept depicting a heavy lift “flying crane” helicopter lifting a battlefield ballistic missile on a tracked transporter/launcher (appears to be a Pershing missile). Manufacturer is unknown, though Sikorsky seems a safe bet. Note that it appears to have four turboshaft engines.

In the early-mid 1970′s, Boeing was looking towards a new generation of wide-body jetliner to replace their older planes such as the 707 and 727. Initially designated “7X7,” it eventually became the 767. Along the way, a wide range of unusual layouts were studied, a number of which were built… at least as display models.

This concept called for four turbofan engines mounted above the wing. This would add two features:

1) It would be quieter, since some of the noise from the exhaust would be shielded from the ground by the wings (though potentially louder in the cabin)

2) The Upper Surface Blowing configuration creates additional lift at low speed due to the Coanda Effect.

On the other hand, having the exhaust scraping directly along the wing surface would create additional stresses as well as reducing thrust at high speed. Additionally, a configuration like this would be difficult to re-engine later with higher bypass engines.

Another of one Alexander Lippisch’s aerodyne concepts. Wingless VTOL vehicles, they obviously never caught on. This one is for a US Navy craft of some type, apparently a resupply vehicle for submarines. It has the appearance of being designed to submerge itself… but that’s just nutty. I have no idea whatsoever what the red bulges are top and bottom. Maybe radar antennae domes? If so, it seems odd that there’d be handrails running up the front of ‘em. But for a vehicle like this, “radar picket” would seem a possible role.

VSP is a CAD program used by NASA for rapid preliminary design. Until recently it was available to the public on a limited basis… had to sign licensing forms, no further redistribution… and no release to non-US nationals.

OpenVSP is a parametric aircraft geometry tool. OpenVSP allows the user to create a 3D model of an aircraft defined by common engineering parameters.

It’s now been released for general consumption. I’ve not used it, but it’s reportedly very easy to learn and use, and is designed for preliminary conceptual aircraft design. I’m told that it does well at creating watertight meshes, and outputs in a Rhino format.


An AIAA paper describing VSP is here: Aircraft Conceptual Design Using Vehicle Sketch Pad

Sadly, I don’t see a big fat collection of actual NASA-produced conceptual aircraft designs for downloading, but I suppose some of them will make it out at some point.

Almost 1 In 3 U.S. Warplanes Is a Robot

The fighter jocks are, I’m sure, not pleased about the trajectory of the USAF towards an overwhelmingly unmanned fleet of fighters and bombers. The money quote:

…the military has 7,494 drones. Total number of old school, manned aircraft: 10,767 planes.

Sounds bad for the Top Gunners. However, of those roboplanes, 5,346 are US Army RQ-11 Ravens. While neato, the Raven is not as yet a direct threat to planes such as the F-16.

Iran’s Flying Saucer Downed U.S. Drone, Engineer Claims

Iranian flying saucers with force fields. Uh-oh, we’re in trouble now…

Plus side – snark from the Pentagon:

“We have no comment on this individual’s claims,” George Little, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, tells Danger Room, “but tell him the Secretary would like his lightsaber back.”

Lockheed Martin recently revealed a single illustration of what *may* be LockMart Skunk Works thinking on a Sixth Generation fighter for the 2030 or later timeframe. It wasn’t revealed in a report or press release, but instead in a calendar. It’s unclear whether this is a serious design effort or is just some computer generated doodling.

The design is jam-packed full of aesthetic neatoness. It appears to be a supercruising stealthy fighter, substantially more sleek than the F-22. It is a manned design, which has caused some quarters to get rather irritated at the whole idea, since the assumption is that a sixth-gen fighter will almost inevitably be an unmanned vehicle, either remotely piloted or autonomous. But as the recent RQ-170 landing in Iraq incident showed, unmanned aircraft do not seem to be entirely bug free (Conspiracy Theory Moment: “The Air Force made the UAV land in Iran to make sure that pilots keep their jobs.”)

I can’t say whether the fighters of the 2030-and-beyond period will all be unmanned, or whether there’ll still be some manned ones. But I can say that it’s damned sad that the next fighter isn’t expected to be available for twenty years.

Anyway, the illustration (which can be seen at the first link above) shows the design from an angle that does not well display the planform, but mostly from the side. Still, seemed like a design screaming out for a three-view. I gave it a shot… I like the side view, but I’m underwhelmed with my top views (there are three, since I’m very uncertain of the planform).

Sometimes people just do insist upon flaunting what they got that I ain’t.

What the world clearly needs is an Occupy The Airfields movement that can redistribute an airplane my way.

Boeing is unsurprisingly interested in expanding the utilization of their X-37 program. One concept that has been studied is the X-37C, which is a 165% scaleup of the X-37B designed for cargo and passenger transport to and from the ISS. It would be launched as a payload atop something like the Lockheed Martin Atlas V.

As a passenger transport, it could carry up to seven crewmembers.  This would make it an adequate replacement for the Space Shuttle which could, in theory, transport fifty or more (using a payload bay passenger module) but never carried more than 7. As a cargo carrier, it would be of minimal value; the Atlas V launch vehicle could transport a far larger payload sans X-37C.

In the 1970′s Martin Marietta hoped to follow up the X-24A and X-24B with the X-24C. Vaguely similar to the X-24B in shape, it would be an all-new rocket powered hypersonic lifting body research vehicle. Air launched from under the wing of a B-52, the X-24C could be equipped with a number of experimental modules, including internal weapons bays (to test the dynamics of weapon ejection at hypersonic speeds) to scramjet engines.

Lockheed studied a very similar series of vehicles, also (unofficially) calling them “X-24C.” None were built.

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