Introducing the X-65: DARPA Reveals New Name and Concept Art of Its Innovative X-Plane Aircraft

On Monday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the official designation of its innovative new X-plane, which it says will be called the X-65, along with new conceptual images it shared on social media.

According to the agency, the newly christened X-65 aircraft will be capable of flight “without traditional, exterior-moving flight controls.” The aircraft’s development is part of DARPA’s Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effecters (CRANE) program, which the agency says “aims to build an experimental uncrewed aircraft that maneuvers by controlling the air flow around it.”

The announcement was made in a Tweet from the official DARPA Twitter account.

The CRANE program’s main objective is to construct and fly the X-65 with the implementation of Active Flow Control (AFC) technology, according to a statement on the agency’s website.

“Crane seeks to optimize the benefits of active flow control by maturing technologies and design tools, and incorporating them early in the design process,” said Dr. Richard Wlezien, DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) Program Manager.

“Active flow control could improve aircraft performance by removing jointed surfaces, which currently drive design configurations that increase weight and mechanical complexity,” Wlezien added. “Demonstrating AFC for stability and control in-flight would help open the design trade space for future military and commercial applications.”

Wlezien, whose work with DARPA began last September, focuses on “the intersection of advanced technology in air vehicles and the acceleration of technology transition to flight.”

In January, The Debrief reported that DARPA had selected Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to design and build the agency’s then-unnamed X-plane.

At the time of the announcement, the agency said that the innovative new aircraft would rely on a simple design and enhanced stability provided by its implementation of active flow control technologies to improve both performance and reliability, while also reducing the aircraft’s radar cross-section.

The X-65, resembling a real-life X-wing jet like those depicted in the Star Wars film franchise, is currently scheduled to commence test flights by 2025.

Micah Hanks is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief. He can be reached by email at micah@thedebrief.org. Follow his work at micahhanks.com and on Twitter: @MicahHanks