“The X-48B prototypes have been dynamically scaled to represent a much larger aircraft and are being used to demonstrate that a blended wing body is as controllable and safe during takeoff, approach, and landing as a conventional military transport airplane,” said Norm Princen, Boeing Phantom Works chief engineer for the X-48B program.
Joseph Lusczek, technical director of Aerospace Systems Design and Analysis, Capability Planning Directorate, Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, has been following the Boeing blended wing body development work since 1995.
According to Lusczek, the blended wing body concept has considerable potential and could have application to future Air Force systems.
“The efficient design would have applicability to transport, tanker, bomber, surveillance and other types of aircraft requiring long range and large payload capacities,” he explained. “The concept also could have application to small, unmanned vehicles as demonstrated by the test prototypes.”
The Aeronautical Systems Center has performed aircraft design studies using the concept for potential tanker, cargo, and long-range strike missions.
“Boeing has conducted studies showing a blended wing body aircraft would be about 80 percent of the gross weight of a conventional aircraft designed to perform the same mission,” Lusczek said. “The aerodynamic efficiency of the concept, uniformly distributing the lift over the total span of the aircraft including a lifting fuselage, requires about 30 percent less fuel to accomplish the mission.”
The Boeing, NASA and Air Force Research Laboratory cooperative agreement on the X-48B program culminates years of blended wing body research by NASA and Boeing.
“Those associated with the evolution of the concept are to be commended for their innovation, engineering excellence and foresight,” said Lusczek. “It has been rewarding watching this revolutionary concept develop. It’s a new plateau in airplane design and has the potential to be the ‘shape of the future’ for aircraft.”