Armstrong Whitworth AW.171 Super Sonic VTOL Flying Wing Project


All hail the God of Frustration!!!
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15 April 2006
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Hi folks,

Does anyone have any information on the Armstrong Whitworth AW.171 Super Sonic VTOL Flying Wing Project. All I have been able to find is that it was a design in response to Specification ER161T (any details of this?) and these specs:

Length : 21.59m
Wing Span: 5.36m
Main Engine : Bristol Orpheus (2,200Kg) X 2
Lift Engine : Rolls-Royce RB108 (953Kg) X 10
All-Up Weight : 7,398Kg
Max Speed : 2,387Km/h (Mach 2)
Crew : 1



Greg indicates a research requirement than than operational, like the ER.143T (Shorts SC.1). ER.163 was Fairey FD.2 with De Havilland Gyron engine, cancelled, which should date ER161T to perhaps somewhere near 1957?
You're right Paul,

"ER161T was issued by the MoS in September 1955 calling for two different aerodynamic research aircraft, identified as types A and B. AWA prepared design studies to meet both the type A and B. AW.171 and AW.172 respectively. The requeriment was for small 15,000 to 20,000 lb research aircraft to investigate full scale flight problems arising from the introduction of extremely narrow delta or diamond wing planform. (AW.171 83º leading edge sweep back and wing thickness/chord ratio of 6%. AW.172 76º and 3%). AW.171 offered the greatest potential to provide information for a much larger aircraft, possibly a long range bomber or transport aircraft.
Early test results failed to confirm theoretically predicted aerodynamic advantages so the project was soon droped."

"By 1956, interest in narrow delta concept was however renewed. Jet Lift SST design was presented to SST Committee. SST based in AW.171 layout data was:

lenght: 241 ft
span: 57,9 ft
all-up weight: 420,000 lb
max speed: 2,6 Mach
payload: 136 passenger
vertical propulsion: 224 Rolls-Royce RB108 (Yes, 224 engines :eek:) Mounted in the wing centre sections, just outboard of the passenger cabin
forward propulsion: 4 turbojets in pods at the wing tips

By the 1957 the project had been cancelled and it was not allocated an AW project number."

Source: Air Enthusiast 43. Armstrong Whitworth's unbuilt projects by Ray Williams
This is excellent Orionblam..

Any idea about the source ?

I think it was John Fozard who said of prone piloting - "It's a good position, but not for flying!"

He was talking about the reclining position on tail-sitter VTOL aircraft like the X-13. But I think it applies here too!
Very interesting!

I've toyed with scratchbuilding a model of the AW171 a few times over the last 18 months or so, and with these new details I'm sorely tempted again. I've always liked this design, ever since I saw the pictures of the display model in an Air Enthusiast article (AE43 IIRC) back in 1991.

Looking at that drawing of the ccokpit, I note the pilots eyeline is below the canopy line, with external vision for take off and landing by periscope?


Armstrong Whitworth AW.171 narrow-delta wing aircraft, designed to Specification ER.161T.
RAeS (NAL) photo from The Aerospace Professional, September 2011


  • AW.171 model.jpg
    AW.171 model.jpg
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Hi dredging this one up. I assume the submission from AWA is held at Kew? Does anyone know what the document is called? All I can find is ER.161 specification which is document reference AVIA 65/637
View attachment 625134View attachment 625136View attachment 625135
proportionally, that looks like a Blackbird, just with no wings outside the engine nacelles... Roughly 100ft long and maybe 30ft engine to engine.
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