A Russian company might have cracked the problem with forward-swept wings on jet aircraft

The SR-10. Picture: KB SAT

A Russian design bureau has taken the wraps off a forward-swept wing jet it plans to produce for the Defense Ministry.

Modern Aviation Technologies (KB SAT) began work on a subsonic, single engine, all-composite dual-pilot aircraft SR-10 in 2007.

A development model appeared at the MAKS airshow in 2009, but financial problems stalled the project for several years.

But on Christmas Day just gone, the SR-10 (CP-10) suddenly took to the skies. Video of its maiden flight appeared on YouTube several days later.

Look closely at the wings:

They’re stuck on backwards, right?

That configuration is obviously important. It’s also one that has been tried by several different developers in several different countries going back for some 80 years, with varying degrees of success.

US company Grumman built two – the X-29 – which were tested by NASA and the US Air Force 242 times between 1984 and 1991:

Grumman’s X-29. Picture: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

They’ve both been consigned to museum and research center displays now, because the configuration shifted the jet’s centre of gravity to a point which made it dangerously unstable.

Also, the higher angle of attack which the unorthodox setup allowed also put extra stress on the wings. At the time, that could be fixed by stiffening the wings, but at the same time, it couldn’t. Stiffening the wings would have added weight, which would have made the whole things even more unstable and, therefore, pointless.

Because the point of forward-swept wings is the increased agility they offer. The US Air Force concluded its time with the X-29 by admitting the theory was great, but the technology to keep the jet under control simply was not up to the job.

At the same time, the Russians began development on the Sukhoi Su-37 Berkut, but it took until the late 90s for it to get airborne as the Su-47:

Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut. Picture: Leonid Faerberg/Wikimedia Commons

Just one was built and flown. The Russians claimed to have solved some of the control system and structural problems and reported extremely high agility at supersonic speeds, better stability at higher attack angles and less likelihood of stalling and spinning.

But that sole Su-47 has never gone into production, instead being used as a technology demonstrator prototype.

Some of that technology has gone into the Su-35 which stole the Paris Airshow in 2013 and are now protecting Russia’s bombers as they work over Syria.

Now, it seems a lot more technology has gone into controlling the SR-10. And crucially, it’s not a protype, as KB SAT has reportedly offered Russia’s Air Force 16 of the craft as “an intermediate trainer”.

RT reports the SR-10 boasts the following specs:

  • 900km/h maximum horizontal flight speed
  • 1500km range capability
  • 6000m practical ceiling
  • Cruising speed at the 6000m height of 520km/h.
  • Safe ejection escape up to 950km/h

And while it’s officially designated an “aerobatic jet aircraft”, Russia’s Defense Ministry, according to RIA, is expected to allocate up to 2.5 billion rubles ($47.7 million) to the project.

Here’s the full Christmas Day fly-by:

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