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For years the primary purpose for developing forward-swept wings was structuralto allow the
wings to be mounted farther back on the fuselage so that their connecting structure did not
interfere with anything inside the fuselage (like bombs or people). Wind tunnel tests made it
clear that there were many problems with forward-swept wings and few aerodynamic
advantages. One major problem was that the wingtips tended to bend upwards and cause the
plane to stallinevitable for metal wings. But in the mid-1970s, a U.S. Air Force officer noted
that new composite materials then becoming available for aviation could be incorporated into the
wings of a modern jet and eliminate the tendency of the wingtips to bend upward and cause the
plane to stall. At the same time, several U.S. aviation companies were exploring ways to make
planes that were highly maneuverable at transonic speeds
Aircraft with forward-swept wings are highly maneuverable at transonic speeds because air
flows over a forward-swept wing and toward the fuselage, rather than away from it.
The X-29 used the fuselage from the Northrop F-5A, the main undercarriage and other
equipment from the F-16, and an engine from the F/A-18. Its wings were made of advanced
composites and it was equipped with small wings called canards mounted on the forward
fuselage rather than on the tail where horizontal stabilizers are usually located. These helped
increase the plane's maneuverability. The reverse airflow inward from the wing tip toward the
root of the wing did not allow the wing tips and their ailerons to stall at high angles of attack.
The Grumman X-29 first flew in 1984. It had a strange appearance, with the wings mounted well
back on the fuselage, and almost looked like it was flying backward. The aircraft could only be
flown with the help of an advanced computer control system. In numerous tests over the next
several years, the X-29 demonstrated that the forward-swept wing design produced a 15 percent
better ratio of lift to drag in the transonic speed region.


The Su-47 has extremely high agility at subsonic speeds enabling the aircraft to alter its angle of
attack and its flight path very quickly, and it also retains manoeuvrability in supersonic flight.
Maximum turn rates and the upper and lower limits on air speed for weapon launch are important
criteria in terms of combat superiority. The Su-47 aircraft has very high levels of
manoeuvrability with maintained stability and controllability at all angles of attack. Maximum
turn rates are important in close combat and also at medium and long range, when the mission
may involve engaging consecutive targets in different sectors of the airspace. A high turn rate of

the Su-47 allows the pilot to turn the fighter aircraft quickly towards the next target to initiate the
weapon launch.
The swept-forward wing, compared to a swept-back wing of the same area, provides a number of

higher lift to drag ratio;

higher capacity in dogfight manoeuvres;
higher range at subsonic speed;
improved stall resistance and anti-spin characteristics;
improved stability at high angles of attack;
a lower minimum flight speed;
a shorter take-off and landing distance.

The Su-47 fuselage is oval in cross section and the airframe is constructed mainly of aluminium
and titanium alloys and 13 per cent by weight of composite materials. The nose radome is
slightly flattened at the fore section and has a horizontal edge to optimize the aircraft's anti-spin


22.60 m


16.70 m

Take-off weight

24,000 kg

Maximum speed

1.6 Mach

Maximum g-force

higher than 9g quoted for Su-27


aluminium and titanium alloys


13 per cent by weight


Properties of the forward swept wing at low speeds have been known for some time (Weissinger,
1947; Multhopp, 1950). They include an uneven spanwise distribution of lift and excessive root
bending moment.
The largest loads occur at the root, while an aft swept wing has a more gradual loading with a
maximum lift around mid-span. Fast calculations can be performed with a linearized lifting
surface theory.

Figure 1: foward and backward swept wings

Features of Forward Swept Wings
At transonic speeds the sweep is needed to reduce and post-pone the drag rise. Research
performed in recent years (Wachli, 1993), showed that for at constant shock location, shock wave
sweep, taper ratio, aspect-ratio and area, a forward swept wing has a lower leading-edge sweep
that an aft swept wing. This produces a lower profile drag and a lower root bending moment.
At constant root bending moment, the wing with forward sweep has a slightly higher aspectratio, which leads to a further reduction of the profile drag.
Wing Stall
Wing stall starts at the root and proceeds outwards, while on a wing with aft sweep stall
unusually starts at the tip and proceeds inwards. Root stall provides better control capabilities at
high speed, although lifting and stability capabilities may be enhanced by appropriate canards.

Wing Divergence
Another problem of the wing is the critical wing divergence (e.g. the operation point at which
irreversible aeroelastic effects take place, with catastrophic consequences). This difficulty would

require a much heavier wing than the corresponding backward swept wing. The problem could
be partially solved with the use of advanced composite materials.
Current Applications
The use of this wing is mostly confined to experimental fighter aircraft (Grumman X-29A,
Sukhoi S 37). These research airplanes feature tapered wings with leading edge root extension
(LERX), foreplanes, slightly canted fins, and extreme agility at angles of attack above 90 degs !
One production aircraft with swept back wings, the German business jet HFB 320 Hansa, was
moderately successful in the 1960s.

Canard foreplanes act in a similar way to conventional tailplane and elevators, but due to swap in
position about the centre of gravity control surface actions have the opposite effect.[citation


A canard arrangement produces more lift than a conventional set-up when total lift
produced is considered. During manoeuvres the canard control surfaces mirror those of
the main wing adding to the lift to climb and decreasing the lift to descend. This means
that the aircraft can move tighter and faster than with a conventional set-up
Because the canard generates upward lift, unlike with a tail plane which produces
downward or negative lift, there is a reduction in the lift required from the main wing.
This reduction in the required lift generation by the wing to over come the weight of the
aircraft a reduction in lift-induced drag by the wing. As well as removal of the negative
lift generated by the tailplane and the associated lift-induced drag. Overall drag and lift
requirements of the aircraft is reduced
The canard is, sometimes, designed to stall prior to the main wing. This means that once
the canard stalls, the nose tends to pitch down, thus reducing the angle of attack of the
main wing. However, that is not to say that the main wing cannot stall: a vertical gust that

causes a sufficiently high angle of attack on the main wing will cause both the canard and
the main wing to stall
In a propeller aircraft, a canard normally uses a pusher configuration. This reduces
fuselage drag, because the fuselage is not operating in the increased flow induced by the


The wing root operates in the downwash from the canard surface, which reduces its
efficiency, although the effect of the downwash does not cause as large of a problem as
the tailplane would experience in a conventional set-up
The wing tips operate in the upwash from the canard surface, which increases the angle
of attack on the tips and promotes premature separation of the air flowing over the wing
tip. This premature separation at one tip or the other would promote wing-drop at the
approach to the stall, leading to a spin. This must be avoided by precautions in the design
of the wing, and may require extra weight in the wing structure outboard of the wing root
Because the canard must be designed to stall before the main wing, the main wing never
stalls and so never achieves its maximum lift coefficient. This may require a larger wing
to provide extra wing area in order for the airplane to achieve the desired takeoff and
landing distance performance

It is often difficult to apply flaps to the wing in a canard design. Deploying flaps causes a
large nose-down pitching moment, but in a conventional aeroplane this effect is
considerably reduced by the increased downwash on the tailplane which produces a
restoring nose-up pitching moment. With a canard design, there is no tailplane to alleviate
this effect. The Beechcraft Starship attempted to overcome this problem with a swingwing canard surface which swept forwards to counteract the effect of deploying flaps, but
usually, many canard designs have no flaps at all
In order to achieve longitudinal stability, most canard designs feature a small canard
surface operating at a high lift coefficient (CL), while the main wing, although much
larger, operates at a much smaller CL and never achieves its full lift potential. Because
the maximum lift potential of the wing is typically unavailable, and flaps are absent or
difficult to use, takeoff and landing distances and speeds are often higher than for similar
conventional aircraft
In the case of a pusher propeller, the propeller operates in the wake of the canard,
fuselage, wing and landing gear. Also, the propeller diameter is often smaller than
optimum, because of ground clearance considerations at rotation. A smaller propeller
operating in a large wake will result in reduced propulsive efficiency

Although some of the advantages and disadvantages above apply to all situation a few of the
disadvantages can be, and have been used in the design of high performance military aircraft
were aerodynamic instability can allow for a large improvement in the maneuverability of the
Though in the civil aviation industry the disadvantages are seen to far outweigh the advantages
and few canard design civil aircraft have been successful though with exception of a range of
light aircraft produced by Burt Rutan

Examples of canard aircraft

Aircraft that have successfully employed this configuration include:

AEA Silver Dart

Atlas Cheetah

Beech Starship
Chengdu J-10
Curtiss-Wright XP-55
Freedom Aviation Phoenix
IAI Lavi

Berkut 360
Cozy MK IV
Dassault Rafale

MiG-8 Utka
North American X-10

Pterodactyl Ascender
Rutan Long-EZ
Rutan VariViggen
Saab Viggen
Sukhoi Su-30 MKI
Sukhoi Su-35
Sukhoi T-4
Velocity XL

Grumman X-29A
Kysh J7W1 Shinden

B-1 Lancer (small canards

help negotiate low-level
Chengdu J-9
Curtiss-Wright CW-24B
Eurofighter Typhoon

IAI Kfir
McDonnell Douglas (now
Boeing) F-15 S/MTD
Miles Libellula
North American SM-64
Peterson 260SE (a Cessna 182 Piaggio P180 Avanti (3
with an added canard for
surfaces aircraft with flapped
STOL operations)
canard for pitch trim)
Rockwell-MBB X-31
Rutan Defiant
Rutan Quickie (more a tandem Rutan VariEze
than a canard)
Rutan Voyager
Santos-Dumont 14-bis
Saab Gripen
Steve Wright Stagger-Ez
Sukhoi Su-33
Sukhoi Su-34
Sukhoi Su-37
Sukhoi Su-47
Tupolev Tu-144
Velocity SE
Wright Flyer
XB-70 Valkyrie