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LoFLYTE Waverider Wind Tunnel Model

DAYTON, Ohio - The LoFLYTE Waverider Wind Tunnel Model on display in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The LoFLYTE Waverider Wind Tunnel Model on display in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Note: This item is currently in storage.

This wind tunnel model is an example of the so-called "waverider" shape that the U.S. Air Force and NASA are developing to fly faster than conventional aircraft. A waverider is a craft that "surfs" on the shockwave created as it flies at hypersonic speeds -- above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. 

Though waveriders are built to fly fast, the LoFLYTE (Low-Observable Flight Test Experiment) program demonstrated their airworthiness at low speeds for maneuvering and landing. This wind tunnel model made 191 runs in NASA's low-speed wind tunnel at Langley Research Center, Va. A later LoFLYTE model, powered by a small jet engine, flew in late 1996 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Its shape makes the aircraft hard to control, so special "neural net" computers, which mimic pilot actions and learn through experience, flew the unmanned LoFLYTE vehicle.

LoFLYTE is related to the unmanned X-43A "Hyper X" waverider, which successfully achieved a world speed record for an air-breathing (not rocket-powered) aircraft in March 2004 by flying at 4,780 mph, or Mach 7. The previous record was held by an SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane at Mach 3.2. 

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