DARPA and Aurora Flight Sciences have begun construction on the first full-scale aircraft for the revolutionary Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. The experimental X-65 jet aims to demonstrate an entirely new method of flight control that eliminates the need for any external moving parts on the aircraft.
Rather than using conventional control surfaces like rudders, flaps and elevators, the X-65 will utilize active flow control – essentially jets that alter the flow of air over the aircraft to maneuver it. This is intended to revolutionize how both military and commercial aircraft are designed.
The 30-foot wide, 7,000 pound X-65 will feature both traditional control surfaces and the new active flow control system as a way to compare their effectiveness. It is designed to fly at speeds up to Mach 0.7. DARPA notes its size makes findings directly relevant to real world aircraft.
Construction is underway and unveiling could occur in early 2025, with the first test flight potentially taking place that summer. The X-65 has a modular design allowing its wings and flow control systems to be swapped out for further testing even after the CRANE program ends.