Lockheed Martin X-56

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Rendering of the X-56A in flight
Role Experimental aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin Skunk Works
First flight 26 July 2013
Primary users NASA
Air Force Research Laboratory
Number built 2

The Lockheed Martin X-56 is an American modular unmanned aerial vehicle that is being designed to explore High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) flight technologies for use in future military unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.

Design and development[edit]

Designed by Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Programs, known informally as the Skunk Works,[1] the aircraft was first revealed by Aviation Week,[2] and is intended to research active flutter suppression and gust-load alleviation technologies. The X-56A is based on Lockheed's earlier UAV work, showing influence from the Polecat, Sentinel and DarkStar UAVs. The program calls for the construction of two 7.5 feet (2.3 m)-long fuselages and a wingspan of 27.5 ft,[3] with four sets of wings being constructed for flight testing.[4]

Operational history[edit]

The X-56A first flew on 26 July 2013,[5] flying from Edwards Air Force Base; twenty flights were to be flown on behalf of the Air Force Research Laboratory before the aircraft would be handed over to NASA for further testing.[6]

The first X-56A unmanned aircraft was severely damaged in a crash shortly after takeoff from the dry lakebed at Edwards AFB, California, on 19 November 2015, on its first flexible-wing flight to test active flutter suppression. The aircraft had previously made 16 flights with stiff wings to prove its operating envelope.[7]

The second X-56A unmanned aircraft flew for the first time on 9 April 2015 while under operation by NASA.[8] The aircraft flew eight flights with the stiff wings to clear its operating envelope.[9] The vehicle then completed its first flight with the highly flexible wings on 31 August 2017.[10]

One instability mode, body freedom flutter, was shown to be actively suppressed by the digital flight control at 110 kn (200 km/h), within its normal flight envelope. Slender, flexible and lighter low-drag wings would be enabled by flutter suppression.[11]

NASA’s X-56B unmanned air vehicle was destroyed in a crash on 9 July 2021 after suffering an “anomaly in flight”.[12]

Specifications (X-56A)[edit]

Data from [5]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 (flown by remote control from ground-based console)
  • Length: 7.5 ft (2.3 m)
  • Wingspan: 27.5 ft (8.4 m)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Jetcat P400 turbojets, 88.7 lbf (0.395 kN) thrust each


  • Maximum speed: 138.1 mph (222.3 km/h, 120.0 kn)

See also[edit]

Related lists


  1. ^ "Introducing the X-56A MUTT: Who Let the Dog Out?". NASA. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  2. ^ Norris, Guy. "USAF Reveals Skunk Works-Designed X-56A As Latest X-Plane". aviationweek. Archived from the original on 19 May 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Lockheed Martin X-56A Multi-utility Aeroelastic Demonstrator". www.hitechweb.genezis.eu. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  4. ^ X-56A Testbed Arrives At NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center 17 April 2014.
  5. ^ a b Jordan, Holly (31 July 2013). "X-56A technology demonstrator achieves first flight". Wright-Patterson Air Force Base: Air Force Research Laboratory. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  6. ^ Warwick, Graham (6 August 2013). "Skunk Works' X-56A - Taming Flutter". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  7. ^ "The Week in Technology, Nov. 23-27, 2015". Aviation Week. November 23, 2015.
  8. ^ Conner, Monroe (2015-04-14). "Second MUTT takes to the sky". NASA. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  9. ^ Conner, Monroe (2015-04-02). "X-56A Multi-Use Technology Testbed". NASA. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  10. ^ Levine, Jay (October 20, 2017). "Highly Flexible Wings Tested". NASA. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  11. ^ Graham Warwick (Nov 1, 2018). "NASA's X-56 Demos Flutter Suppression Flexible Wing". Aviation Week & Space Technology.
  12. ^ Garrett Reim (Jul 9, 2021). "NASA's X-56B unmanned air vehicle was destroyed". Flight Global.

External links[edit]