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Difference between X-planes and Black Projects

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posted on Apr, 10 2006 @ 09:43 AM
I was wondering if any of the X-planes have led to a black project or perhaps the other way round. Ive always looked upon the X-planes as the public front of the development, like the projects which dont actually lead anywhere but are released to show that the air force is making head-way, while the black projects are the good stuff.

But how does a project become either black or an x-plane? Who decides whether a project has potential? Did any of the x-planes lead to an actual secret project?


posted on Apr, 10 2006 @ 11:16 AM
"X-plane" designations are part of the Mission Design Series (MDS) designation system. Assignment of such numbers is regulated by Department of Defense (DoD) Direction 4120.15, "Designation and Naming Defense Military Aerospace Vehicles," and under the same title for each service: Air Force Joint Instruction 16-401, Army Regulation 70-50, and Navy NAVAIRINST 8800.3A.

Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command Cataloging and Standardization Center (HQ AFMC/CASC) in Battle Creek, Michigan serves as the control point for DoD MDS designators and aerospace vehicle popular names and assigns such designations as requested. Headquarters U.S. Air Force (HQ USAF/XPPE) at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. administers the MDS Designator Program for the DoD and exercises approval authority for all new MDS designations.

"Black" projects are Special Access Programs (SAPs) and often have unusual MDS designators (such as YF-113G, YF-117A, etc.).

So far, the only X-planes I have found with a connection to a SAP were the X-36 and X-45A.

The X-36 was the "white world" element of the developmental effort involving Bird of Prey (BoP). Development of the manned Bird of Prey was parallel and complementary to that of the X-36 unmanned tailless demonstrator. The X-36 program was carried out at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., and was primarily aimed at validating technologies that McDonnell Douglas (and later Boeing) proposed for early concepts of a Joint Strike Fighter design.

The BoP, tested at Groom Lake, Nevada, was used to pioneer revolutionary advances in low-observable (stealth) features, aircraft design, and rapid prototyping. Lessons learned from the X-36 and BoP were incorporated into the Boeing X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstrator.

posted on Apr, 10 2006 @ 12:39 PM
Not totally sure... But black projects are secret projects and the DoD doesn't have to tell anything about them... the X programs again are planes that are under development... The F-35 was an X-35 before it become a real fighter...

[edit on 10-4-2006 by Figher Master FIN]

posted on Apr, 10 2006 @ 02:21 PM
Strictly speaking, planes under development are Y planes not X planes, YB-49, YF-16 ETC ETC, the operational version then drops the Y.

X planes are purely experimental research vehicles and are not intended to result in an operational aircraft, ie every X plane up until the X-32 and X-35 appeared.

Black projects are secret projects for any purpose who's existance is not publically acknowledged.

This is why in the other thread I was pointing out why the X-35 designation appears to be incorrectly applied leading to the out of sequence F-35 designation. None of that makes any sense unless it is to hide the existance of secret aircraft that have previously had 'in sequence' designations applied to them.

For example when the secret YF-24 was developed it may have been fully expected to be revealed in the white world by the ttime it became the F-24A, but this didn't happen for whatever reason and so the DoD did not want to draw attention to it by calling the JSF prototypes YF-25 and YF-26. To preserve the secrecy the JSF types were then allocated numbers in the X plane sequence rather than the F sequence to throw people off the scent.

This is all pure theory of course but I am also thinking back to how they were at pains to point out that the X-35 was NOT a prototype at all but merely an experimental technology demonstrator that the actual production version would differ from a great deal, the pictures of the F-35A recently published however show this to be not strictly true, so why couldn't it be the 'YF-25'? After all, the YF-22 differs from the F-22A by a much greater degree.

That does it, I have now convinced myself, does anybody else find this theory plausible?

posted on Apr, 11 2006 @ 10:48 AM
Unfortunately, the MDS designators are not always assigned with the type of logic one would expect. Quite a few experimental aircraft that deserved to be X-planes never recieved X designations. Examples include the D-558-1 and D-558-2 transonic and supersonic research aircraft and the M-2F1, M2-F2/M2-F3, and HL-10 lifting bodies.

posted on Apr, 11 2006 @ 11:32 AM

Originally posted by Shadowhawk
Unfortunately, the MDS designators are not always assigned with the type of logic one would expect. Quite a few experimental aircraft that deserved to be X-planes never recieved X designations. Examples include the D-558-1 and D-558-2 transonic and supersonic research aircraft and the M-2F1, M2-F2/M2-F3, and HL-10 lifting bodies.

I remember reading that the D-558-1 and D-558-2 were operated by the NACA and not the military, that is why they don't have an X designation. I believe that the lifting bodies were also NACA/NASA.

When Yeager was breaking the sound barrier in the X-1 it was a classified or black program.

posted on Apr, 11 2006 @ 09:27 PM
Like many of the X-plane projects, the D-558 and lifting bodies were joint programs. The D-558, Phase 1 and 2, were NACA/Navy projects. The wingless lifting bodies were NASA/USAF projects.

posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 05:40 AM
From the reading up I've just been doing on the Copper Canyon (DARPA) project it appears that this led to the Rockwell X-30, is this an example of a classified black project leading to a public experimental craft? If so then it definately gives an insight into what DARPA were researching with their black projects in the early- to mid-80's.

Also waynos the X-30 was never produced because of budget cuts (as usual!) so the -32 and -35 werent the only ones.

posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 10:37 AM
COPPER CANYON was a "semi-black" air-breathing hypersonics study that served as the de-facto Phase I of the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) development program. Sponsored by DARPA, it was initiated in early 1984 to determine the feasibility of building an operational transatmospheric vehicle (TAV). It was superseded in 1985 by NASP.

The COPPER CANYON effort was mainly undertaken at Battelle Laboratories in Columbus, Ohio. Airframe studies were conducted by Lockheed, Boeing, Rockwell, and General Dynamics. McDonnell Douglas independently submitted a TAV concept at no cost to the government. Propulsion studies were submitted by duPont, Marquardt, Pratt & Whitney, and GASL.

COPPER CANYON ultimately served as NASP Phase I (Feasibility Study). It was follwed by Phase II (Technology Maturation and Hardware Development). Phase III (construction of the X-30 NASP technology demonstrator) was cancelled. The program ended in 1995 after a total expenditure of $5.5 billion.

posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 11:00 AM
How do you explain the Y/F-17 Waynos...?? It was after all the beginning of the F/A-18...

posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 11:18 AM
Wow shadowhawk all that info about Copper Canyon is great. By "semi-black" do you mean that it was classified but publicly known to be going on? If so is it still classified?

Originally posted by Shadowhawk
Airframe studies were conducted by Lockheed, Boeing, Rockwell, and General Dynamics.

Are any of these studies available? Has anyone seen them?

posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 12:06 PM

Originally posted by Figher Master FIN
How do you explain the Y/F-17 Waynos...?? It was after all the beginning of the F/A-18...

The YF-17 is one of the reasons I came up with my theory about the X-35 designation and its purpose in hiding the YF-24.

The YF-17 was not intended as the starting point for the F-18, it was built in competition with the YF-16 for the USAF and Northrop fully hoped to see the 'F-17A' entering service in place of the F-16A but it was not to be, the F-18 then grew out of the YF-17 after it lost out in the USAF's LWF competition; therefore the US prototypes that were built and intended to result in an operational combat aircraft being developed directly from them were;

YF-14 - Entered service as the F-14A
YF-15 - Entered service as the F-15A
YA-9 - Lost out in the A-X competition and remained a prototype
YA-10 - Won the A-X competition and enterd service as the A-10A
YF-16 - Won the LWF competition and entered aervice as the F-16A
YF-17 - Losing LWF competitor, stayed a prototype but used as basis for F-18
YF-22 - Winner of ATF, now in service as the F-22A
YF-23 - Loser of ATF , remained a prototype, (may yet appear as FB-23)

Right, now anticipate the JSF competitors are coming along and this conversation takes place in the corridors of power;

"Nice planes, they are going to be the YF-24 and YF-25 yes?"
" But wait! there is already a YF-24 in existence so they will have to be the YF-25 and YF-26 yes?"

"No, wait! The YF-24 is top secret and we don't want any clue that it exists, a missing number is rather obvious, what shall we do?"

"We can stick them in the X plane sequence and pretend that they aren't really prototypes at all?"

"OK, that works for me, X-32 and X-35 are free, whatsmore, we can keep the number for whichever one wins and just change the X for an F, that will be so far out of sequence the YF-24 can stay secret and everybody will accept that F-32 or F-35 makes sense because they will be used to the X plane designation by then"

"Excellent work Hank, now go get me a coffee".

posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 12:34 AM
The YF-17 was a competitor in the light weight fighter competitition the same as the YF-16. When this competition happened both aircraft were out of the experimental phase and into the developemental phase, hence the YF designation.

posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 04:47 AM
Aerospaceweb have a great site all about the LWF project here.

I found it a really interesting read. I was told that commonly fighter projects arent classified, only reconnaisance and perhaps bombers, was the LWF project, the YF-16 and YF-17 black?

posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 05:25 AM
No they were never 'black'. These design concepts were reported weekly in such as Flight and Aviation Week.

I also have a design from General Dynamics, before it settled on the F-16 that we know today, that is not featured on that page. It looks almost exactly like a scaled down F-15, I reckon that must have been one of the very first concepts?

As I tried to say before, the Y merely represents the prototype of a planned service fighter (see my list above) For instance the F-100 Super Sabre first flew as the YF-100. Not just fighters either, for instance the AMST Hercules replacement contenders of the 1970's flew as the YC-14 and YC-15, the winners would have entered service as the C-14A or C-15A. The Y prefix just means 'prototype'.

X was occasionsally used, but NEVER on its own as with the X-35 and X-32, for example the prototypes of the Sabre and Shooting Star were the XP-86 and XP-80 and the prototype of the Phantom II was the XF4H-1 (US Navy system = XF (prototype fighter) 4 (fourth model) H (McDonnell) 1 (first version).

[edit on 14-4-2006 by waynos]

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