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Grumman X-29 Technology Demonstrator (1982)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 9/9/2009

The X-29 design was born from the airframe of the Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter design.

The Grumman X-29 aircraft was a developmental technology demonstrator appearing in the latter years of the Cold War. The design was of a most unique shape - made notable by the forward-swept wings - and was the first aircraft with such an arrangement to fly supersonically (the World War 2-era Junkers Ju 287 was the first jet to utilize forward swept wings but flew sub-sonically). The X-29 would serve as a flying test bed for seven years beginning in 1984 and much research was garnered from the project.

Design-wise, the X-29 was a modified airframe belonging to the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter lightweight aircraft. The X-29 featured light-yet-rigid composite-based forward-swept monoplane wings emerging from the rear fuselage sides. The cockpit was mounted well-forward with a large glass canopy offering up good visibility. Additionally, the design featured forward canards which was also part of the experimental nature of the craft. The empennage was dominated by a single large engine and a single vertical tail fin. The engine was a 16,000lbf General Electric-brand F404 type providing speeds of up to Mach 1.5+ and a ceiling of 55,000 feet. The undercarriage featured a combination of F-5 and F-16 parts.

The Grumman X-29 was an internally complex design centered around three redundant fly-by-wire computers backed up by three redundant analog computers. Fly-by-wire technology was necessary as the unconventional layout proved to be highly unstable. The redundancy of the systems assured that there was no catastrophic failure of the subsystems while in flight. The analog arrangement directly backed up the digital suite to provide a further fail safe. The X-29 was a true test bed for fly-by-wire technology that would become so commonplace in the following decade.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was the primary user of the limited production X-29A models (only two examples were produced marked by their new 82-0003 and 82-0049 serial numbers). Testing spanned from 1984 through to 1991 before the project was ended. In the end, the system proved many concepts workable and forwarded the realm of military aviation in the United States for some time. The two working examples survived their years of testing with one ending up on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio and the other becoming a fixture at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB. The National Air & Space Museum showcases a fiberglass scale model of the X-29 in its rafters.

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Specifications for the
Grumman X-29
Technology Demonstrator


Focus Model: Grumman X-29A
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Grumman - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1982
Production: 2


Crew: 1


Length: 48.23ft (14.7m)
Width: 28.87ft (8.80m)
Height: 14.11ft (4.30m)
Weight (Empty): 13,801lbs (6,260kg)
Weight (MTOW): 17,791lbs (8,070kg)


Powerplant: 1 x General Electric F404 turbofan engine delivering 16,000lbf.


Maximum Speed: 1,131mph (1,820kmh; 983kts)
Maximum Range: 1,553miles (2,500km)
Service Ceiling: 55,118ft (16,800m; 10.4miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
None.


Variants:
Grumman Model 712 / G-712 - Internal Grumman Company Designation.


X-29A - Base Developmentl Model of which 2 examples were produced and operated.


Operators:
the United States of America