How the military’s new X-65 plane might revolutionize aircraft design

X-65 CRANE is an experimental aircraft with a flight test scheduled for 2025. (Aurora Flight Sciences)

Meet the U.S. military’s new plane that might revolutionize how aircraft are designed. 

In January, Aurora Flight Sciences, a subsidiary of Boeing, announced that it has begun constructing a new aircraft funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) program. 

The efforts by the agencies will result in the production of the X-65 CRANE which aims to demonstrate a new method of flight control using no external moving parts.

That means it won’t have parts found on current aircraft models that include rudders and flaps. 

The program aims to create a plane completely controlled by jets of pressurized air which manipulates the surrounding air flows while in flight, which Aurora refers to as active flow control technology (AFC).

This new design will hopefully make the X-65 more lightweight and aerodynamic. 

"As we move into the manufacturing phase, we are getting ever closer to fulfilling the goal of validating AFC technology and helping to open the design trade space for future applications," said Kevin Uleck, CRANE program director at Aurora Flight Sciences. "X-65 has the potential to change the future of aircraft design. Aurora is honored to support DARPA on this groundbreaking program." 

The plane will have a wingspan of roughly 30 feet and weigh about 7,000 pounds and be capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 0.7.

Aurora said an official flight test is targeted for summer 2025.