Rockwell-MBB X-31

  • United States United States
  • Germany Germany

The X-31 was an experimental aircraft from einstrahliges American- German co-production. The aircraft used for the practical testing of the thrust vector control for operations beyond the maximum buoyancy.


Participating companies were in the U.S. and Rockwell International in Germany Messerschmitt -Bolkow -Blohm (MBB ) and the DASA ( now Airbus Group) involved, authorities DARPA and the Federal Office for Defence Technology and Procurement. The DARPA commissioned initially the U.S. Navy with the practical implementation. Later were also the United States Air Force, NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR ) and the Bundeswehr Technical Center 61 - the testing center of the German Air Force - involved.

The single-seat X-31 had a delta gull wing and instead of a conventional tailplane small, adjustable slats ( duck wing or canard ). The engine inlet was located under the fuselage. Behind the Triebwerksauslass were three large paddle-shaped thruster, with which the exhaust jet could be computer controlled steered in different directions.

The roll-out took place on 11 October of that year on 1 March 1990, the first flight. There were two planes, one of which crashed during the experiments.

Due to the thrust vector control of X-31 flight maneuvers were possible, would have led to other aircraft into an uncontrollable flight condition and thus crash.

Some specific points of the flight test were:

  • Flights with angles up to 70 degrees in the area of ​​air flow separation (English stall and post- stall )
  • Flights without fin
  • Simulated dogfights against various types of aircraft
  • Autoland, the aircraft due to the high angle of attack got along with a very short runway

The X-31 flew publicly among others at the Paris Air Show 1995 at Le Bourget. Also at the International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Berlin in 2004 she was seen. The remaining copy is in the air Schleißheim in Munich, a branch of the Deutsches Museum in Munich since 2003.

Use of the findings

The findings from the X-31 project, in particular with respect to avionics and thrust vectoring, flowed directly into the development of the Euro Fighter and the F-22.