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June 25, 2006

"Pentagon Developing Supersonic Shape-Shifting Assassin"

I tried to come up with a better headline, but how could I?

For years, the U.S. military has wanted a plane that could loiter just outside enemy territory for more than a dozen hours and, on command, hurtle toward a target faster than the speed of sound. And then level it.

But aircraft that excel at subsonic flight are inefficient at Mach speeds, and vice versa. The answer is Switchblade, an unmanned, shape-changing plane concept under development by Northrop Grumman.

When completed (target date: 2020), it will cruise with its 200-foot-long wing perpendicular to its engines like a normal airplane. But just before the craft breaks the sound barrier, its single wing will swivel around 60 degrees (hence the name) so that one end points forward and the other back.

This oblique configuration redistributes the shock waves that pile up in front of a plane at Mach speeds and cause drag. When the Switchblade returns to subsonic speeds, the wing will rotate back to perpendicular.

The article's by Noah Schachtman of DefenseTech, now getting articles published in Popular Science and CNN.

Thanks to DDG who says he needs some "alone time" with the article, the Decepticon "Thunderbolt," and some cocoa butter.

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posted by Ace at 01:47 PM

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