Lockheed Martin’s prototype ‘bullet plane’ completes maiden flight

Image copyright The Getty Images Image caption Aerospace researcher Lori Garver recently completed a nine-hour trip between Long Beach and Los Angeles A prototype “bullet plane” has made the flight of its life. The…

Lockheed Martin's prototype 'bullet plane' completes maiden flight

Image copyright The Getty Images Image caption Aerospace researcher Lori Garver recently completed a nine-hour trip between Long Beach and Los Angeles

A prototype “bullet plane” has made the flight of its life.

The prototype has been flying after an 18-month flight test programme. The flight allowed its pilot to hold more than 21 metres in the air.

The US military and company are now working on developing an operational prototype.

The round plane is made with a cylinder structure and made from carbon fibre material. It is designed to evade radar detection.

Lori Garver, US undersecretary of defence for research and engineering, said: “It took us years to get to this point, but now it’s my mission to ensure that this technology is in the hands of our warfighters.”

When the research and development phase is completed, The Lockheed Martin X-31 program is expected to deliver a 3.5 kilogram projectile into a target and then, being directed by the aircraft’s autopilot, to destroy the target using a high-speed manoeuvre – converting into a “shoot, score, turn and collect” mission.

During the test flight on 25 July, the plane could travel at a speed of 307mph and a range of about 150 miles (241km).

What about taking off?

Trey Robillard, aerospace technology manager for Lockheed Martin, also spoke to the BBC’s World Service programme Aesthetics: The Future.

He explained that a “carnival-like” style of flight has been created for the last two years.

“It is a pressure reduction vehicle, and it reduces pressure at the front,” he said.

“When the pressure drops, there is so much pressure in the chassis that the piston implodes the piston tube, which then expands outwards to be able to carry all that load.”

He said it had gone exceptionally well, adding that the pilot, Gregory Stucky, had just completed his ninth 90-minute flight.

“The flying circus is almost a liability. It’s really beautiful and it really does take your breath away,” he said.

What does it cost?

The “bullet plane” may not have a commercially-available price tag yet, but Mr Robillard said that he hoped the price would be less than $50,000 (£37,000).

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