The following paragraph discusses RQ-180 aircraft. What is the meaning of highly swept that has been used as an adjective for body?

The aircraft uses a version of Northrop’s stealthy “cranked-kite” de- sign, as does the X-47B, with a highly swept centerbody and long, slender outer wings. Northrop Grumman en- gineers publicly claimed (before the launch of the classified program) that the cranked-kite is scalable and adapt- able, in contrast to the B-2’s shape, which has an unbroken leading edge. The RQ- 180’s centerbody length and volume can be greater relative to the vehicle’s size.

I don't understand what sweep means in aircraft wing context. Another example follows:

Maintaining a high degree of laminar flow on a swept wing is an achievement in itself, because spanwise air flow tends to induce turbulence and is not made any easier by possible spillage from overwing inlets.

Having looked up the entry "sweep", I don't seem to understand what it means with wing.


In this instance I think these are two separate things. The body of the the RQ-180 is extremely aerodynamic, whereas a swept wing is a type of wing design, like delta wing.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    In this case, because this design is basically a flying-wing design, the body is considered to be swept as well. I.e., the leading edge of the body projects away from the aircraft centerline at a rearward angle. The wings project outward relative to the centerline at a rearward sweep angle as well. – Jim Mar 11 '15 at 19:35

A "swept wing" is a design in which the wing doesn't project straight out from the fuselage; instead, there's an overall angle between the two. Here's a "straight wing" (i.e. not swept), in which the wing overall is at right angles to the fuselage:


Here's a swept wing, in which the wing is "swept back" (while the first wing basically goes left-right, this one points generally backwards):


Some wings are at more of an angle than others (they're "swept back" further). A highly swept wing is one which is at a sharper angle to the fuselage, like so:

highly swept

The RQ-180 is a "flying wing" design, which means that the whole fuselage of the aircraft provides lift. The leading edge of the center of the aircraft is at a sharp angle, like the highly swept wing example. Technically, that doesn't quite make it highly swept (sweep angle applies to wings, not to leading edges), but because it's a sharp angle it looks like a highly swept wing, so the author just used the term.

| improve this answer | |
  • I guess this wing resembles a traditional sweeper, hence the name. – codezombie Mar 13 '15 at 9:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.