Developed in the 1970s, it was not until the late 1980s that the United States was able to make the first test flight of the X-29, one of the world’s most complex aircraft designs.

The Grumman X-29 is an American effort to apply the Forward-swept wing in practice. Studied during the 1970s of the last century, the X-29 proved that contemporary technology is still not sufficient to overcome the weaknesses of this design.

Grumman X-29: The impossible fighter jet with inverted wings

A close-up view of the Grumman X-29’s cockpit with a series of classic analog-style clocks.

Designed based on the world’s first forward-swept wing aircraft, the Nazi Junkers Ju 287 was born 40 years earlier. Grumman X-29 took advantage of this design to be able to optimize maneuverability as a fighter.

This X-29 aircraft only has a single seat for test pilot. It has an empty weight of about 6.2 tons, a length of 17.7 meters, a wingspan of 8.29 meters and a wing area of 17.54 square meters. A General Electric F404 turbofan engine was used, providing thrust up to 71.2 kiloNewtons. The maximum speed Grumman X-29 reaches was approximately Mach 1.8, equivalent to 1,770 km/h at an altitude of 10,000 meters. The service ceiling of the Grumman X-29 was about 16,800 meters, but its maximum range was only 560 km.

A special feature of the aircraft using this wing type is that the entire drag of the air will be concentrated on the center of the aircraft, instead of sharing the two sides as usual.

Putting the drag on the center of the aircraft will give this jet a much better maneuverability than traditional wing aircraft. Especially at high speeds, the maneuverability of the aircraft using this wing type is completely superior to the aircraft using the traditional wing.

On December 14, 1984, test pilot Chuck Sewell took off the X-29 from Edward Airport and broke the world record, making the X-29 the first forward-swept wing aircraft to surpass supersonic speed.

Previously, the two forward-swept wing-designed airplanes, the Junkers Ju 287 and HFB-320 Hansa, were unable to achieve supersonic speed during flight testing.

A total of 2 X-29 prototypes were born, carrying out 242 test flights between 1984 and 1991. However, the purpose of the aircrafts were only limited to research purposes. After 1991, all two of mankind’s most advanced forward-swept wing aircraft were put into NASA museum.


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