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March 9, 1998

Release: 98-09

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NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., is cooperating (in an agreement) with the U.S. Navy, The Boeing Company, General Electric, and several international partners on Phase 1 of a new flight research program called VECTOR (Vectoring, Extremely Short Takeoff and Landing, Control and Tailless Operation Research). The VECTOR program will use one of the two X-31 aircraft that flew at Dryden between 1992 and 1995.

"The prospect of getting the X-31 back in the air is exciting," says Steve Schmidt, Dryden's X-31 VECTOR project manager. "Phase 1 has gotten off to a great start; the Swedish Gripen fighter RM-12 engine fit-check in the aircraft and the aircraft parts count went very well," Schmidt said.

The goal of the X-31 VECTOR program is to research advanced flight enabling technologies using the X-31 aircraft. Plans include: removing the aircraft's tail for tailless operation research; development of an Advanced Airdata System (AADS); Extreme Short-Takeoff-and-Landing (ESTOL) research for potential high Angle of Attack (A0A) aircraft carrier landing use; and installation of an Axisymmetric Vectoring Exhaust Nozzle (AVEN(r)).

Phase 1 of the VECTOR program is known as the Program and Requirements Definition phase. The U.S. Navy signed a contract with The Boeing Company on Feb. 18 to perform Phase I of the program. The Phase I portion of the program runs through August 14, 1998.

Phase I consists of VECTOR multi-national team negotiations for a Memorandum of Agreement, an X-31 aircraft parts count, the fit-check of a SAAB JAS-39 Gripen fighter RM-12 engine (GE F-404 engine derivative) in the X-31, and painting of the aircraft. Phase I work began at Dryden on March 2 and included the fit-check of the RM-12 engine and the aircraft parts count by VECTOR partners.

A proposed Phase 2, the Technology Development and Demonstration phase, would be the actual VECTOR flight research and could begin as early as September 1998.

In 1994, during the original X-31 flight research program, software was installed in the X-31 to demonstrate the feasibility of stabilizing a tailless aircraft at supersonic speed using thrust vectoring. Tests also included subsonic flight speeds.

The original X-31 program logged an X-plane record of 580 flights. 559 were research missions and 21 took place in Europe for the 1995 Paris Air Show. Fourteen pilots representing all agencies of the International Test Organization flew the aircraft.

The X-31 was the first international experimental aircraft development program administered by a U.S government agency, and was a key effort of the NATO Cooperative Research and Development Program.

The X-31 VECTOR Cooperative Test Organization (CTO) participants/partners are: USA: U.S. Navy, Boeing, General Electric, and NASA; Sweden: Swedish Government, Volvo, SAAB; Germany: German Ministry of Defense, DASA (Daimler-Benz consortium).


Note to Editors: Photos and are available from the NASA Dryden Photo Archive on the World Wide Web at: /centers/dfrc/Gallery/Photo/index.html , or by calling (805) 258-2664


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