Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
Copyright © 2024 Andreas Parsch

Aurora X-65 CRANE

In 2020, DARPA initiated the CRANE (Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors) program. The goal is to develop an aircraft, which has no moving control surfaces. Instead, an active flow control (AFC) system is to control the airflow over the wings in a way to ensure the aircraft's stability and manoeuverability in all three axes.

CRANE Phase 0 invited three contractors to present concepts, followed in Phase 1 by a downselect to two competitors for a preliminary aircraft design. In January 2023, Aurora Flight Sciences became the sole contractor for CRANE Phase 2, which resulted in a detailed design for an unmanned AFC demonstrator aircraft, to be designated X-65A. Finally, in January 2024, Aurora received a contract to proceed with Phase 3 and actually build and flight test the X-65A.

Artist's Rendering: Aurora Flight Sciences

The X-65A has a joined tandem wing in a diamond configuration, twin vertical tails, and is powered by s single turbojet enigne. It will be of modular construction, so that AFC effectors and wing shapes can be changed relatively easily. The X-65A will have a wingspan of around 9 m (30 ft), a weight of around 3200 kg (7000 lb), and will fly at speeds up to Mach 0.7. After the contract award, the envisioned first flight time frame was not later than end of 2025.


Detailed characteristics of the X-65A are not yet available.

Main Sources

[1] DARPA Website
[2] Airforce Technology: X-65 CRANE Demonstrator Aircraft

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 24 January 2024