MUTT is one of the Air Force's newest X-planes, designated X-56A. The 7.5-foot-long aircraft has a 28-foot wingspan and will be powered by two 52-pound thrust JetCat P200-SX turbine engines. It is being built in California under contract to Lockheed Martin Corp., which will conduct the flight experiments for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
Dryden will oversee the flights for AFRL during summer 2012, and than take ownership of the X-56A MUTT for follow-on research after the Air Force tests are finished in early autumn. “Flexible wings and fuselages can result in significant reductions in the structural weight of aircraft,” says Gary Martin, deputy project manager for NASA's Subsonic Fixed Wing Project at Dryden.
But unlike the short, stiff wings found on most aircraft today, long, thin wings like those on the X-56A are susceptible to uncontrollable vibrations, called flutter, that result from the force of air flowing over them. Thin wings can also be stressed by bending forces from wind gusts and atmospheric turbulence.