Jan 18, 2010
On 7:44 PM by lalith varun 1 comment
A variable-sweep wing is an aircraft wing that can be swept back or front and then returned to its original position during flight. It allows the aircraft's geometry to be modified in flight, and is an example of variable geometry. With different wing positions allowing for greater efficiency and performance in various flight modes, these aircraft are more versatile than aircraft with fixed wings. During the World War I and II, one would notice that most of the aircrafts had wings perpendicular to the fuselage and in very rare cases a couple of degrees swept back. But with the advent of jet engines after the World War II which gave a boost to the speed of the aircrafts, the traditional wing shapes weren't that efficient at such high speeds. So jet planes started using tapered wings, but this came at a cost of low efficiency at lower speeds.
And hence came the need for an aircraft which can alter its wing geometry in mid flight. This feature gives the airplane the best possible performance characteristics for any given speed. The German Messerschmitt company first tested planes with variable wing geometry during World War II. The Messerschmitt P-1101's wings could be moved to different sweep angles, only while the plane was on the ground. Based on the Messerschmitt design, the U.S. developed a working test craft, the Bell X-5, which was slightly larger than the P-1101 and could change its wing-sweep angle while in flight.
Designers had to take into consideration many factors regarding sweep while designing a swing wing. Swept back wings make the aircraft more stable at high speeds while forward swept wings allows the aircraft to be agile. In the 1990s, Northrop Grumman tested variable-geometry wings on another plane with the "Switchblade" nickname. The Northrop Bird of Prey had three wing configurations:
- full-back position - The wings were perpendicular to the fuselage for low-speed flight.
- intermediate position - The wings were swept forward for exceptional maneuverability.
- full-forward position - The leading edge of the wings folded in against the fuselage, allowing the trailing edge to become the front of the wing for high speeds. This resulted in a triangular, or delta wing shape.
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