Revolutionary new X-Plane achieves mach speeds with innovative wing design

  • This new X-plane reaches Mach speeds due to its unique design
  • The X-65 doesn’t have conventional rudders, flaps, or other moving parts on the exterior to boost its stealth capabilities
  • It’s the holes in its wings that help it achieve eye-watering Mach speeds – and it’s currently being tested by the US military

Published on May 13, 2024 at 8:20 PM (UTC+4)
by Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

Last updated on May 14, 2024 at 5:46 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

Call it a UFO, because this new X-65 plane reaches Mach speeds due to a design that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Without the conventional rudders and flaps or other aircraft, the X-65 has no moving parts on the exterior to boost its stealth capabilities.

Instead, it uses holes in its wings to hit eye-watering Mach speeds – and it’s currently being tested by the US military.

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It’s being developed by Aurora Flight Sciences for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA).

It forms part of their Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program.

The X-65 plane uses a phenomenon known as active flow control (AFC) to accomplish its maneuvers and speed.

It’s the most recent of the government’s long-term X-Plane series, which has gone through multiple iterations since Aurora initiated the concept in 2020.

The X-65 has already passed the initial design stage with Boeing and the University of Arizona.

It has completed system requirements, airworthiness evaluations, and wind tunnel testing.

Construction of an unpiloted demonstrator began after the project was green-lighted in December 2022.

The innovative X-65 aircraft uses jets of compressed air in 14 ‘effectors’ to shape airflow over its surface to control roll, pitch, and yaw.

As a welcome side-effect, this design element also decreases weight.

Dr. Richard Wlezien, DARPA’s program manager for CRANE, made a statement.

“The X-65 is a technology demonstrator, and its distinctive, diamond-like wing shape is designed to help us maximize what we can learn about AFC in full-scale, real-world tests,” he said.

The demonstrator is set to have a 9-meter (30-foot) wingspan and weigh in at 3,175 kg (7,000 lbs).

With these stats, it will reach speeds of Mach 0.7 (864 km/h or 537 mph).

But it’s not the fastest plane out there: America might possess a secret jet capable of the fastest ever hypersonic speed: Mach 5+.

Initially, the demonstrator will have flaps and rudders, as well as the ‘effector’ air jets, to allow for control for comparison against traditional aircraft.

“These data will help us better understand how AFC could revolutionize both military and commercial craft in the future,” Wlezien said.

The X-65 has a modular construction enabling the outboard wings to be swapped for AFC effectors.

It will hopefully be ground-tested next summer at Aurora’s headquarters in Manassas, Virginia in the US.

“We are getting ever closer to fulfilling the goal of validating AFC technology and helping to open the design trade space for future applications,” said Kevin Uleck, CRANE program director at Aurora Flight Sciences.

“The X-65 has the potential to change the future of aircraft design.

It is unlikely to break into the risk-averse world of commercial aviation.

However, NASA and Boeing have revealed a new look for a green X-plane of the future.


Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

London-based Amelia cut her journalistic teeth covering all things lifestyle, wellness and luxury in the UK capital. Fast-forward a decade and the experienced content creator and editor has put pen to paper for glossy magazines, busy newsrooms and coveted brands. When her OOO is on you can find her spending quality time with her young family, in the gym or exploring the city she loves.