Academic journal article Air Power History

History Mystery

Academic journal article Air Power History

History Mystery

Article excerpt


Our "mystery plane" in the last issue was the Bell X-5, which tested a new aviation concept--a wing that could be swept backward and forward while in flight.

Although the X-5 looked like a fighter, it was never meant for any purpose but research.'

A variable geometry wing could be swept back for high-speed, combat performance and swept forward for low-speed operations in an airfield pattern. The wing of the X-5 spanned about 31 feet when swept fully forward for lower-speed flight but only about 18 feet when swept back to its maximum angle of 60 degrees.

The X-5 derived from the German Messerschmitt P.1101, which was brought to the United States for evaluation at the end of World War II. After the Air Force rejected the idea of developing a fighter-interceptor based on the P.1101. In 1949, Bell won a $2.4 million contract to build two X-5 research craft.

The X-5 first flew at Edwards Air Force Base, California, July 27, 1951, piloted by Bell test pilot Jean "Skip" Zeigler. Initially, the plane was flown with the wing swept forward only. The sweep-back mechanism was first tried on its fifth flight.

The X-5 was powered by a 4,900-pound thrust Allison J35-A-17 turbojet engine. Bell planned to replace this powerplant with a more powerful Westinghouse J40 turbojet but the J40 failed to meet expectations and never flew aboard the X-5. …

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