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The Swept Wing

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The whole idea of sweeping an aircraft's wing is to delay the drag rise caused by the formation of shock waves. The swept-wing concept had been appreciated by German aerodynamicists since the mid-1930s, and by 1942 a considerable amount of research had gone into it. However, in the United States and Great Britain, the concept of the swept wing remained virtually unknown until the end of the war. Due to the early research in this area, this allowed Germany to successfully introduce the swept wing in the jet fighter Messerschmitt ME-262 as early as 1941.

Early British and American jet aircraft were therefore of conventional straight-wing design, with a high-speed performance that was consequently limited. Such aircraft included the UKGloster Meteor F.4 , the U.S. Lockheed F-80 Sooting Star and the experimental U.S. jet, the Bell XP-59A Airacomet.

After the war German advanced aeronautical research data became available to the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) as well as Great Britain. This technology was then incorporated into their aircraft designs. Some early jets that took advantage of this technology were the North American F-86 Sabre, the Hawker Hunter F.4 and the Supermarine Swift FR.5.

Not to be outdone, the Soviet Union introduced the swept wing in the Mikoyan Mig-15 in 1947. This aircraft was the great rival of the North American F-86 Sabre during the Korean War.

The Aviation History On-Line Museum.


The Swept Wing & The B-47 Bomber


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The XB-47 Stratojet

Sometimes technological advances are developed by one country and quickly adopted by another country that is more capable of using them in a process known as technology transfer. That is the case for swept wings, which are now common to almost all jet airliners, military jets, and all high-performance aircraft. Although a number of people had thought about them in the years before World War II, it was the German aeronautical engineers of the early 1940s who first proved that swept wings were useful, which appeared on the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. The United States Air Force in the post World War II era quickly adopted the technology and transferred it successfully to jet aircraft.

This was most particularly seen in the process of development that led to the jet bomber, the B-47. In the spring of 1944, the Bomber Project Office at Wright Field, near Dayton, Ohio, issued a requirement for a new jet bomber for the Army Air Forces (AAF). It had to be capable of flying faster than 500 miles an hour (805 kilometres per hour) at an altitude over 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) and a distance (or range) of 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometres) without refuelling. These were ambitious requirements, but three manufacturers replied to the request. One of these was Boeing, which at the time was building the most advanced bomber of the war, the B-29 Superfortress. Boeing produced a design study named the Model 424. In simple terms, this was really little more than an existing bomber design with jet engines fitted in place of piston engines. The engines were mounted in pods below a thin, straight wing mounted high on the fuselage. Other companies submitted similar designs.

While Boeing was working on this design, World War II continued to rage in Europe. During the war, Nazi Germany conducted much advanced scientific research in many fields. Although the Germans did not achieve great breakthroughs in radar or atomic weapons, they did develop impressive aeronautical vehicles, including the world's first operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262, and the first long range ballistic missile, the A4 (more popularly known as the V-2). As the war was winding down, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, asked the famed aerodynamicist Theodor von Karman to lead a group of top scientists and engineers to Germany to learn about its technological advances.

In the spring of 1945, these engineers went to Europe. They followed closely behind the combat troops, so that they could be the first to discover the German technology, which they wanted to obtain before the Russians did. One of the people in this group was Boeing's chief aerodynamicist, George Schairer, who at the time was working at the Pentagon and was not connected to Boeing's Model 424 effort. Shortly before he left the United States, Schairer became aware of a proposal for "wing sweepback," which involved angling the wings back from their connection at the fuselage instead of extending them straight out.

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The B-47 first flew in 1947. It introduced the swept-wing design of jet airliners.

Swept-back wings were not a new idea. Even before World War I they had occasionally been used as a way to shift an airplane's centre of gravity to solve balance problems. W. Starling Burgess had used triangular fins attached to the upper wing on his 1910 biplane to give it inherent lateral stability. In 1939 a German engineer named Ludwig Bölkow and Dr. Albert Betz tested swept wing models for airplane manufacturer Messerschmitt in a wind tunnel. The tests demonstrated that such-wings would allow airplanes to reach higher speeds. The results of these tests led the company to continue testing on swept-back wings throughout the war. When Schairer arrived at the Aeronautical Research Institute in Brunswick, Germany, he discovered these studies. Other research on wing sweepback was also conducted by the German companies Arado and Junkers.

In the United States, NACA engineer Robert Jones had discovered the concept of swept-back wings in January 1945, conducted wind tunnel tests in March, and published his results in May. But it took confirmation from the Germans before anyone went ahead with the idea. Once the German results proved that the benefits were real, Schairer immediately wrote a letter to Boeing about the results and provided a calculation for a wing with 29 degrees of sweep that clearly demonstrated the potential benefits.

Boeing's straight-wing Model 424 received a further study contract from the AAF, as did several of its competitors. But the plane's designers realized that they needed to make a number of modifications to reduce drag, such as moving the engines from the wings to the upper fuselage. They were in the midst of these modifications to their design when Schairer's letter arrived. Almost immediately they began modifying a model, which they were testing in their high-speed wind tunnel (Boeing owned the only private high-speed wind tunnel in the United States; the other two high-speed tunnels belonged to the government). They took their new design, now known as the Model 432, and calculated what angle of wing sweep would work best. With only limited data to work with, they decided upon 35 degrees.

Boeing engineers quickly produced a new model with the 35-degree swept-back wings, which they designated Model 448. It had thin, flexible wings angled back 35 degrees from the fuselage and horizontal stabilizers swept at the same angle. It had a vertical fin swept at 45 degrees. The engines were still mounted above the fuselage. When they presented the design to the Project Office in October 1945, the Air Force rejected it immediately because of the engine location, which was too close to the fuselage and which posed a fire danger. The AAF directed that the engines be mounted on the wings, away from the fuselage.

Boeing engineers went back to the drawing board. They faced a dilemma: how to mount the engines to the wings without creating a large amount of drag from the interaction of the airflow over the engines and the wings. They came up with a simple and elegant solution. They mounted the engines below the wings in pods mounted on thin struts that angled forward. This eliminated the drag problem, and because the engines were far from the fuselage, the fuselage could be slimmed down, further reducing drag. Each wing had two nacelles, with the outer nacelle holding a single engine and the inner nacelle containing two engines side by side. Boeing designated the new design the Model 450.

One final problem was left to overcome—how to mount the landing gear. The usual approach was to mount the gear inside the engine nacelles, but the engine nacelles were too thin for this. The Air Force Program Office suggested that Boeing use a "bicycle gear" whereby one set of tires is located forward of the other. The Boeing design team did this, with the gear at the front of the plane slightly higher than the rear so that the plane had a nose up angle to allow it to take off.

By early 1946, the AAF awarded Boeing a contract to build two XB-47 Stratojet prototypes. Boeing started manufacturing them in June and rolled out the first one in September 1947. Nevertheless, despite the novelty of the design, few people in the Air Force or Boeing were enthusiastic about the airplane. Many thought that it would serve as no more than a research plane, with little chance of becoming operational. Boeing management envisioned selling large numbers of much more conventional aircraft to the newly formed U.S. Air Force.

But by mid-1948, as the XB-47 was well into its flight test program, it became clear to the Air Force and Boeing executives that the airplane far surpassed all of its contemporaries with straight wings. By the end of the year, the Air Force ordered 10 copies. Test pilot Chuck Yeager was sent to follow a B-47 in a jet fighter to check its speed and radioed to the B-47's civilian pilot "I can't keep up." The next day, the B-47 set a new cross-country speed record at an average of 609.8 miles per hour (981 kilometers per hour). Within only a few years, the plane became the primary bomber for the Strategic Air Command and eventually more than 2,000 of them were built.

Many people consider the B-47, which has otherwise been almost forgotten, as "the most influential jet aircraft of all time." All of Boeing's jetliners (as well as the venerable B-52 bomber) adopted the same swept-wing configuration and most of them also fitted their engines on the wings just like the B-47. Other airplane manufacturers around the world also adopted this configuration and it is standard for all large, fast aircraft.



Swept Wings



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A B-52 Stratofortress showing swept wing with a relatively large sweepback angle.
In the transonic the swept wing also sweeps the shock which is at the top rear of the wing. Only the velocity component perpendicular to the shock is affected and suffers an entropy increase.
In the supersonic the swept wing also sweeps the shock in front of the leading edge of the wing. Only the velocity component perpendicular to the shock is affected and suffers an entropy increase.
The F-106 Delta Dart is optimized for supersonic flight and has a highly swept leading edge while the trailing edge has only a weak forward sweep. At a stream wise position in between there is no sweep at all.
F-14 Tomcat, an example of a variable geometry aircraft, shown in high-speed high-sweepback configuration. The wings lie behind the shock cone generated in supersonic flight.
Span-wise flow of the boundary layer
LET L-13 two-seat glider showing forward swept wing
Grumman X-29 experimental aircraft showing an extreme example of a forward swept wing
A Burgess-Dunne aircraft showing the high angle of sweep.
The unswept wing of a Maule M-7-235B Super Rocket light aircraft

A swept-wing is a wing planform common on jet aircraft capable of near-sonic or supersonic speeds. The wings are swept back instead of being set at right angles to the fuselage which was common on propeller.driven aircraft and early jets. This is a useful drag-reducing measure for aircraft flying just below the speed of sound, though straight wings are still favored for slower cruise and landing speeds and aircraft with long range or endurance. Swept-wings also provide a degree of inherent stability and it was for this reason that the concept was first employed in the designs of J.W.Dunne in the first decade of the 20th century, e.g. the Dunne D.1.

Unusual variants of this design feature is forward sweep, variable sweep wings, and pivoting wings. Swept wings as a means of reducing aerodynamic drag were first used on jet fighter aircraft. Today, they have since become almost universal on all but the slowest jets (such as the A-10), and most faster airliners and business jets.


In The Transonic


As an aircraft enters the transonic speeds just below the speed of sound, an effect known as wave drag starts to appear. Using conservation of momentum principles in the direction normal to surface curvature, airflow accelerates around curved surfaces, and near the speed of sound the acceleration can cause the airflow to reach supersonic speeds. When this occurs, an oblique shock wave is generated at the point where the flow goes supersonic. Since this occurs on curved areas, they are normally associated with the upper surfaces of the wing, the cockpit canopy, and the nose cone of the aircraft, areas with the highest local curvature.

Shock waves require energy to form. This energy is taken out of the aircraft, which has to supply extra thrust to make up for this energy loss. Thus the shocks are seen as a form of drag. Since the shocks form when the local air velocity reaches supersonic speeds over various features of the aircraft, there is a certain "critical mach" speed (or drag divergence mach number) where this effect becomes noticeable. This is normally when the shocks start generating over the wing, which on most aircraft is the largest continually curved surface, and therefore the largest contributor to this effect.

Since these shock waves are generated at areas of curvature, the obvious way to reduce their effect is to reduce the curvature. In the case of the fuselage, this suggests long, thin designs that are pointed at the ends. Such designs are common on high speed aircraft, the Concorde being one example, and are referred to as having a high "fineness ratio".

This applies to the wing as well, which suggests that wings should have as little curvature as possible, be as thin as possible, and have a long chord. Examples of this sort of wing planform can be found on the F-104 Starfighter for instance, which is highly optimized for high-speed performance. However, these same characteristics make a wing have a very low lift coefficient, and poor performance at slow speeds. The Starfighter has had a large number of landing accidents caused by its very high landing speed that was needed to keep the wing generating enough lift to fly.

Swept wings essentially "fool" the airflow at high speeds into thinking the wing has a longer and flatter profile than it has as measured "head on" to the wing. At low angles of attack airflow over the wing travels almost directly front to back, so a wing swept at 45 degrees would see an effective chord 1.4 times the actual chord. This reduces the effects of wave drag, making transonic flight much more economical. Early experiments demonstrated that the peak drag was lowered by as much as four times compared to a straight wing.




Airflow at supersonic speeds generates lift through the formation of shock waves, as opposed to the patterns of airflow over and under the wing. These shock waves, as in the transonic case, generate large amounts of drag. One of these shock waves is created by the leading edge of the wing, but contributes little to the lift. In order to minimize the strength of this shock it needs to remain "attached" to the front of the wing, which demands a very sharp leading edge. To better shape the shocks that will contribute to lift, the rest of an ideal supersonic airfoil is roughly diamond-shaped in cross-section. For low-speed lift these same airfoils are very inefficient, leading to poor handling and very high landing speeds.

One way to avoid the need for a dedicated supersonic wing is to use a highly swept subsonic design. Airflow behind the shock waves of a moving body are reduced to subsonic speeds. This effect is used within the intakes of engines meant to operate in the supersonic, as jet engines are generally incapable of ingesting supersonic air directly. This can also be used to reduce the speed of the air as seen by the wing, using the shocks generated by the nose of the aircraft. As long as the wing lies behind the cone-shaped shock wave, it will "see" subsonic airflow and work as normal. The angle needed to lie behind the cone increases with increasing speed, at Mach 1.3 the angle is about 45 degrees, at Mach 2.0 it is 60 degrees.For instance, at Mach 1.3 the angle of the Mach cone formed off the body of the aircraft will be at about sinμ = 1/M (μ is the sweep angle of the Mach cone)

Generally it is not possible to arrange the wing so it will lie entirely outside the supersonic airflow and still have good subsonic performance. Some aircraft, like the English Electric Lightning or F-106 Delta Dart are tuned entirely for high-speed flight and feature highly-swept planforms without regard to the low-speed problems this creates. In other cases the use of variable geometry wings, as on the F-14 Tomcat, allows an aircraft to move the wing to keep it at the most efficient angle regardless of speed, although the cost in complexity and weight makes this a rare feature.

Most high-speed aircraft have a wing that spends at least some of its time in the supersonic airflow. But since the shock cone moves towards the fuselage with increased speed (that is, the cone becomes narrower), the portion of the wing in the supersonic flow also changes with speed. Since these wings are swept, as the shock cone moves inward, the lift vector moves forward as the outer, rearward, portions of the wing are generating less lift. This results in powerful pitching moments and their associated required trim changes.




When a swept-wing travels at high speed, the airflow has little time to react and simply flows over the wing almost straight from front to back. At lower speeds the air does have time to react, and is pushed sidewise by the angled leading edge, towards the wing tip. At the wing root, by the fuselage, this has little noticeable effect, but as one moves towards the wingtip the airflow is pushed sidewise not only by the leading edge, but the sidewise moving air beside it. At the tip the airflow is moving along the wing instead of over it, a problem known as spanwise flow.

The lift from a wing is generated by the airflow over it from front to rear. As an increasing amount travels spanwise, the relative amount flowing front to rear is reduced, leading to a loss of lift. Since the spanwise flow increases towards the wing tips, the lift at the tips drops off before the lift from the root. Normally this is not much of a problem, but as the plane slows for landing the tips can actually drop below the stall point even at aircraft speeds where stalls should not occur. Since the tip is swept to the rear of the center of lift, the net lift of the wing as a whole moves forward. This creates a nose-up pressure on the aircraft. If this is not corrected by the pilot it causes the plane to pitch up, leading to more of the wing stalling, leading to more pitch up, and so on. This problem came to be known as Sabre dance in reference to the number of North American F-86 Sabres that crashed on landing as a result.

The solution to this problem took on many forms. One was the addition of a fin known as a wing fence on the upper surface of the wing to redirect the flow to the rear (see the MiG-15 as an example), another closely related design was to add a dogtooth notch to the leading edge (Avro Arrow). Other designs took a more radical approach, including the XF-91 Thunderceptor's wing that grew wider towards the tip to provide more lift there, and the British-favored a crescent compound sweep or scimitar wing that reduced the sweep along the span, used on the Handley Page Victor, one of their V bombers.

Modern solutions to the problem no longer require "custom" designs such as these. The addition of leading edge slats and large compound flaps to the wings has largely resolved the issue. On fighter designs, the addition of leading edge extensions, included for high maneuverability, also serve to add lift during landing and reduce the problem.

The swept-wing also has several more problems. One is that for any given length of wing, the actual span from tip-to-tip is shorter than the same wing that is not swept. Low speed drag is strongly correlated with the aspect ratio, the span compared to chord, so a swept wing always has more drag at lower speeds. Another concern is the torque applied by the wing to the fuselage, as much of the wing's lift lies behind the point where the wing root connects to the plane. Finally, while it is fairly easy to run the main spars of the wing right through the fuselage in a straight wing design to use a single continuous piece of metal, this is not possible on the swept wing because the spars will meet at an angle.


Forward Sweep


Sweeping a wing forward has the same effect as rearward in terms of drag reduction, but has other advantages in terms of low-speed handling where tip stall problems simply go away. In this case the low-speed air flows towards the fuselage, which acts as a very large wing fence. Additionally wings are generally larger at the root anyway, which allows them to have better low-speed lift.

However, this arrangement also has serious stability problems. When such a wing is angled up to the effective wind, the tip rotates to a higher effective angle of attack, producing more lift. This is because the tips are in front of the line of rotation of the wing as a whole, so they move upward as well as rotating. This leads to serious flexing problems, with an above normal amount of lift coming from the wing tips, which, being in front of the center of lift, wants to make the wing rotate even higher.

Thus swept-forward wings are unstable in a fashion similar to the low-speed problems of a conventional swept wing. Small amounts of sweep do not cause serious problems, and had been used on a variety of aircraft to move the spar into a convenient location, as on the Junkers Ju 287 or HFB-320 Hansa Jet. But larger sweep suitable for high-speed aircraft, like fighters, was generally impossible until the introduction of fly by wire systems that could react quickly enough to damp out these instabilities. The Grumman X-29 was an experimental technology demonstration project designed to test the forward swept wing for enhanced maneuverability in 1984. The Su-47 Berkut is another notable example using this technology. However no highly swept-forward design has entered production.




The first aircraft with swept wings were those designed by the British designer J.W.Dunne in the first decade of the 20th century. Dunne successfully employed severely swept wings in his tailless aircraft as a means of creating positive longitudinal static stability Historically, many low-speed aircraft have had swept wings in order to avoid problems with their center of gravity, to move the wing spar into a more convenient location, or to improve the sideways view from the pilot's position. For instance, the Douglas DC-3 had a slight sweep to the leading edge of its wing. The wing sweep in low-speed aircraft was not intended to help with transonic performance, and although they have a small amount of wing sweep they are rarely described as swept-wing aircraft. The Curtiss XP-55 was the first American swept-wing airplane, although it was not considered successful.




The idea of using swept wings to reduce high-speed drag was first developed in Germany in the 1930s. At a Volta Conference meeting in 1935 in Italy, Dr. Adolf Busemann suggested the use of swept wings for supersonic flight. He noted that the airspeed over the wing was dominated by the normal component of the airflow, not the freestream velocity, so by setting the wing at an angle the forward velocity at which the shock waves would form would be higher (the same had been noted by Max Munk in 1924, although not in the context of high-speed flight). Albert Betz immediately suggested the same effect would be equally useful in the transonic. After the presentation the host of the meeting, Arturo Crocco, jokingly sketched "Busemann's airplane of the future" on the back of a menu while they all dined. Crocco's sketched showed a classic 1950's fighter design, with swept wings and tail surfaces, although he also sketched a swept propeller powering it.

At the time, however, there was no way to power an aircraft to these sorts of speeds, and even the fastest aircraft of the era were only approaching 400 km/h. Large engines at the front of the aircraft made it difficult to obtain a reasonable fineness ratio, and although wings could be made thin and broad, doing so made them considerably less strong. The British Supermarine Spitfire used as thin a wing as possible for lower high-speed drag, but later paid a high price for it in a number of aerodynamic problems such as control reversal. German design instead opted for thicker wings, accepting the drag for greater strength and increased internal space for landing gear, fuel and weapons.

At the time the presentation was largely of academic interest, and soon forgotten. Even notable attendees including Theodore von Kármán and Eastman Jacobs did not recall the presentation ten years later when it was re-introduced to them. Buseman was in charge of aerodynamics research at Braunschweig, and in spite of the limited interest he began a research program studying the concept. By 1939 wind tunnel testing had demonstrated the effect was real, and practical.

With the introduction of jets in the later half of World War II applying sweep became relevant. The German jet powered Messerschmitt Me 262 and rocket powered Messerschmitt Me 163 suffered from compressibility effects that made them very difficult to control at high speeds. In addition the speeds put them into the wave drag regime, and anything that could reduce this drag would increase the performance of their aircraft, notably the notoriously short flight times measured in minutes. This resulted was a crash program to introduce new swept wing designs, both for fighters as well as bombers. The Focke-Wulf Ta 183 was a swept wing fighter design with a layout very similar to that later used on the MiG-15 that was not produced before war's end.

A prototype test aircraft, the Messerschmitt Me P.1101, was built to research the tradeoffs of the design and develop general rules about what angle of sweep to use. None of the fighter or bomber designs were ready for use by the time the war ended, but the P.1101 was captured by US forces and returned to the United States, where two additional copies with US built engines carried on the research as the Bell X-5.




The Soviet Union was intrigued about the idea of swept wings on aircraft at the end of World War II in Europe, when their "captured aviation technology" counterparts to the western Allies spread out across the defeated Third Reich. Artem Mikoyan was asked by the Soviet government, principally by the government's TsAGI aviation research department, to develop a test-bed aircraft to research the swept wing idea-the result was the late 1945-flown, unusual MiG-8 Utka pusher canard layout aircraft, with its rearwards-located wings being swept back for this type of research. When applied to the jet powered Mig-15, its maximum speed of 1,075 km/h (668 mph) outclassed the straight-winged American jets and piston-engined fighters first deployed to Korea.

von Kármán travelled to Germany near the end of the war as part of Operation Paperclip, and reached Braunschweig on May 7, discovering a number of swept wing models and a mass of technical data from the wind tunnels. One member of the US team was George Schairer, who was at that time working at the Boeing company. He immediately forwarded a letter to Ben Cohn at Boeing stating that they needed to investigate the concept. He also told Cohn to distribute the letter to other companies as well, although only Boeing and North American made immediate use of it.

In February 1945 NACA engineer Robert T. Jones started looking at highly-swept delta wings and V shapes, and discovered the same effects as Busemann. He finished a detailed report on the concept in April, but found his work was heavily criticized by other members of NACA Langley, notably Theodore Theodorsen, who referred to it as "hocus-pocus" and demanded some "real mathematics". However, Jones had already secured some time for free-flight models under the direction of Robert Gilruth, whose reports were presented at the end of May and showed a four-fold decrease in drag at high speeds. All of this was compiled into a report published on 21 June 1945, which was sent out to the industry three weeks later. Ironically, by this point Busemann's work had already been passed around.

Boeing was in the midst of designing the B-47 Stratojet, and the initial Model 424 was a straight-wing design similar to the B-45, B-46 and B-48 it competed with. A recent design overhaul completed in June produced the Model 432, another four-engine design with the engines buried in the fuselage to reduce drag, and long-span wings that gave it an almost glider-like appearance. By September the Braunschweig data had been worked into the design, which re-emerged as the Model 448, a larger six-engine design with more robust wings swept at about 35 degrees.[6] Another re-work in November moved the engines to pods under the wings, as the Army was concerned about engine fires potentially destroying the aircraft. The resulting design would have performance rivaling the fastest fighters, and trounced the straight-winged competition. The basic layout of engines on pylons under swept wings is still used on most airliners today.

In fighters, North American Aviation was in the midst of working on a straight-wing jet powered naval fighter then known as the FJ-1. It was submitted it to the Air Force as the F-86. Larry Green, who could read German, studied the Busemann reports and convinced management to allow a redesign starting in August 1945. A battery of wind tunnel tests followed, and although little else of the design was changed, including the wing profile (NACA 0009), the performance of the aircraft was dramatically improved over straight-winged jets. With the appearance of the Mig-15, the F-86 was rushed into combat and straight-wing jets like the P-80 and F-84 were soon relegated to ground attack. Some such as the F-84 and F-9 Cougar were later redesigned with swept wings from straight-winged aircraft. Later planes such as the F-100 would be designed with swept wings from the start, though additional innovations such as the afterburner, area-rule and new control surfaces would be necessary to master supersonic flight.

The British also received the German data, and decided that future high-speed designs would have to use it. A particularly interesting victim of this process was the cancellation of the Miles M-52, a straight-wing design for an attempt on the speed of sound. When the swept-wing design came to light the project was cancelled, as it was thought it would have too much drag to break the sound barrier, but soon after the US nevertheless did just that with the Bell X-1. The Air Ministry introduced a program of experimental aircraft to examine the effects of swept wings (as well as delta wings) and introduced their first combat designs as the Hawker Hunter and Supermarine Swift.

The German research was also "leaked" to SAAB from a source in Switzerland in late 1945. They were in the process of developing the SAAB Tunnan, and quickly adapted the existing straight-wing layout to incorporate a 35 degree sweep. Although not well known outside Sweden, the Tunnan was a very competitive design, remaining in service until 1972 in some roles.

The introduction of the German swept-wing research to aeronautics caused a minor revolution, especially after the dramatic successes of the B-47 and F-86. Eventually almost all design efforts immediately underwent modifications in order to incorporate a swept-wing. By the early 1950s nearly every new fighter was designed with a swept wing, though a variety of other wings would be used on supersonic fighters. By the 1960s, civilian jets such as the Boeing 707 used swept wings as well.



  1. Wings for all Speeds
  2. Supersonic Wing Design
  3. The Mach cone becomes increasingly swept back with increasing Mach numbers
  4. Wolfgang Haack, "Heinzerling, Supersonic Area Rule", p.39 (in German)
  5. Poulsen, C. M. (May 27 1943). "Tailless Trials". Flight: 556–58. Retrieved on 4 February 2009. 
  6. A History of Aerodynamics, John D. Anderson Jr., McGraw Hill, 1997, pp.424
  7. Comment by Hans von Ohain during public talks with Frank Whittle, p. 28
  8. The SAAB 29 Tunnan
  • Swept Wings and Effective Dihedral
  • The development of swept wings
  • The L-39 and swept wing research
  • Swept wings and lateral stability
  • CFD results showing the 3 dimensional supersonic bubble over the wing of an A 320. Another CFD result showing the MDXX and how the shock vanishes close to the fuselage where the aerofoil is more slender





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