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NASA Facts F-18 High Angle-Of-Attack (Alpha) Research Vehicle

NASA Facts F-18 High Angle-Of-Attack (Alpha) Research Vehicle

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Jun 21, 2011
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National Aeronautics andSpace Administration
Dryden Flight Research Center
P.O. Box 273Edwards, California 93523AC 661-276-3449FAX 661-276-3566pao@dfrc.nasa.gov
FS-2003-08-002 DFRC
F-18 High Angle-of-Attack (Alpha)Research Vehicle
NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., used an F-18 Hornet fighter aircraft as its High Angle-of-Attack (Alpha) Research Vehicle (HARV) in a three-phased flight research program lasting from April 1987 untilSeptember 1996. The aircraft completed 385 research flights and demonstrated stabilized flight at angles of attack between 65 and 70 degrees using thrust vectoring vanes, a research flight control system, and (eventually) forebodystrakes (hinged structures on the forward side of the fuselage to provide control by interacting with vortices,generated at high angles of attack, to create side forces).This combination of technologies provided carefree handling of a fighter aircraft in a part of the flight regime thatwas otherwise very dangerous. Flight research with the HARV increased our understanding of flight at high anglesof attack, enabling designers of U.S. fighter aircraft to design airplanes that will fly safely in portions of the flight
The F-18 HARV in flight (NASA photo EC91 495-15)
envelope that pilots previously had to avoid.
Angle of attack (alpha) is an aeronautical term that describes
the angle of an aircraft’s body and wings relative to itsactual flight path. During maneuvers, pilots often fly atextreme angles of attack — with the nose pitched upwhile the aircraft continues in its original direction. Thiscan lead to conditions in which the airflow becomesseparated over large regions of the lifting surfaces (air-foils). This can result in insufficient lift to maintainaltitude or control of the aircraft and a correspondingincrease in drag — a condition known as stall. (In an idealsituation, the airflow would remain attached to the airfoilsurface from leading to trailing edge; this would reducethe drag that impedes the movement of the airfoil throughthe atmosphere. When the airflow separates from thesurface, this increases the drag and can lead to a stall.)About 1985, NASA began a formal program to exploreand understand aircraft flight at high angles of attack,although the agency has always been interested thesubject. NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton,Va., managed this High Angle-of-Attack TechnologyProgram (HATP) in partnership with Ames ResearchCenter at Moffett Field, Calif.; Dryden Flight ResearchCenter (a name it regained in 1994); and Lewis ResearchCenter (now Glenn Research Center) Cleveland, Ohio.Besides managing the program, Langley performedsubscale wind-tunnel testing, advanced control law syn-thesis, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD — use of computers to predict aerodynamic behavior). Ames con-tributed further CFD work and its 80- by 120-foot windtunnel. Lewis worked on inlet and engine integration.Dryden performed the flight research. Other partnerscame from industry, academia, and the Department of Defense (U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. MarineCorps) plus some NATO participants. Between 1990and 1996, NASA was the host for conferences every twoyears dealing with high angle-of-attack research andtechnology.The NASA HATP has produced technical data fromactual flight at high angles of attack to validate computercodes (CFD) and wind tunnel research. Successful vali-dation of these data has given engineers and aircraftdesigners a better understanding of aerodynamics, effec-tiveness of flight controls, and airflow phenomena athigh angles of attack. Motivated by the tactical advan-tages of enhanced high angle-of-attack agility and ma-neuverability, they have used this understanding to de-sign features providing better control and maneuverabil-ity in future high performance aircraft that will makethem safer to fly. This is partially exemplified in designsalready implemented in the F-22 Advanced TacticalFighter and prototypes of the Joint Strike Fighter. Thrustvectoring research also continued at Dryden with theEnhanced Fighter Maneuverability X-31 and the F-15Advanced Controls Technology for Integrated Vehicles(ACTIVE) research aircraft. These research efforts led torevolutionary technological leaps in design tools and toincreased confidence resulting from actually flying ex-perimental aircraft at high angles of attack or undersupersonic cruise conditions.The primary objectives of HATP were to provide flight-validated aircraft design tools and to improve the ma-neuverability of aircraft at high angles of attack. Theprogram has placed particular emphasis on the areas of aerodynamics, propulsion, control law research, andhandling qualities. To this end, program personnel deter-mined that full-scale flight research was essential toaddress the inherent shortcomings of subscale modeltesting in wind tunnels and CFD. The aircraft NASAselected for a large part of this flight research was aMcDonnell Douglas F-18, which became known as theF-18 HARV after it was rebuilt and modified for HATP.The F-18 was an exceptionally fine high angle-of-attack aircraft in its production form. It had no angle-of-attack 
Diagram of strakecreating a side force(yawing moment)
restrictions at normal center-of-gravity positions. It wasthis characteristic that made it NASA’s choice as aresearch vehicle.
Phase One
The first phase of “high alpha” flights began in April1987 and lasted through 1989. It consisted of 101 re-search flights in the specially instrumented F-18 at anglesof attack as high as 55 degrees. During this phase, therewere no external modifications to the aircraft, but tech-nicians equipped it with extensive instrumentation. NASAresearch pilot Einar Enevoldson made the first (func-tional check) flight on April 2, 1987, and three succeed-ing flights before turning the piloting duties over toNASA research pilots Bill Dana and Ed Schneider. Thepurpose of this phase was to obtain experience withaerodynamic measurements at high angles of attack andto develop the flight research techniques needed for thismeasurement. This was something that had not previ-ously been done.Researchers conducted visual studies of the airflow overvarious parts of the aircraft. Special tracer smoke wasreleased through small ports just forward of the leadingedge extensions near the nose; on-board video and stillcameras captured images of the smoke as it followedairflow patterns around the aircraft. Also photographedin the airflow were short pieces of yarn (tufts) taped onthe aircraft and anti-freeze with dye in it, released ontothe aircraft surfaces from hundreds of small orificesaround the vehicle’s nose.Researchers used the film and videotape images of theairflow patterns from the smoke, dye, and tufts for acomparison with computer and wind tunnel predictions.Additional data that they obtained included air pressuresrecorded by sensors located in a 360-degree patternaround the nose and at other locations on the aircraft.Researchers paid particular attention to the location of strong vortices (masses of air in circular motion) thatformed off the forebody and wing-body-strake (leading-edge extension or LEX) at high angles of attack and their
Dye from small holes in the nose of the F-18 HARV show-ing the flow of air. (NASA photo EC88-0015-79)Flow visualization at 30degrees angle of attackusing tufts. (NASA photoEC89 0096-205 with textadded)Note the leading-edgeextension from next to thecockpit extending back tothe wing and the location ofthe point where the LEXvortex broke down andcaused buffeting of the tail.

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