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The world’s first swing-wing jet
- Type: SPH
- Class: aircraft
- Part Count: 98
- Pure Stock
The X-5, built by Bell Laboratories in 1950, was the first variable geometry jet aircraft (there was a strange propeller plane in the 1920s with limited variable sweep) built and flown in the world. It was based on captured German data on the untested Messerschmitt P.1101 model. Although visually similar to the P.1101, the X-5 had the capability of changing its wing sweep in flight (rather than on the ground), thanks to a system of electric screwjacks and disc brakes to hold the wings in place. The system allowed the wings to shift between a 20, 40, and 60 degree sweepback in under 30 seconds. Although the design partially accounted for the shifting center of mass, lift, and pressure, in some positions the X-5 could fall into an unrecoverable spin. This spin caused the death of a test pilot and the loss of the second prototype, and effectively prevented the Air Force from seriously considering a variable geometry plane for twenty years.
Despite the setbacks, the X-5 program game engineers extremely valuable data on how variable sweep wings behaved, influencing the designs of the F-111 Aardvark and the legendary F-14 Tomcat.
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