‘Dynamics and Control of Tactical Missile System with Morphing Wings’ – A Synopsis

The field of Aerospace Technology, both in military and commercial aviation has evolved in the last 100 years since Wright Brothers’ maiden flight from Kitty Hawk in 1903. In the turn of a new century and the recent interest in a field which has been in existence since Wright Brothers’ wing warping concept,a new form of wing warping, called Wing Morphing can truly change the way we perceive the overall aerodynamic design, control and guidance philosophy in missile technology.

When paired with evergrowing computer technology, active materials, the wing morphing concept holds the potential to make future missile design more efficient, lighter, less complex and even safer with low observable qualities which is set to become a game-changer for stealth combat aerospace vehicles. Morphing wings concept can drastically reduce flying wing’s reliance on jointed control surfaces and eventually eliminate the need for traditional control surfaces all together. This will be applicable for any future stealthy airfames, including missiles, unmanned combat air vehicles, multi-mission fighter aircrafts.

Designs with morphing wings can significantly change the aerodynamics dramatically for high performance maneuvers, loitering, high altitude and low altitude flights. Traditional actuators will not suffice the complexity the morphing wing brings to the overall design. A different flight control system is required, one which is analytically, numerically and experimentally proven and acquires the dynamic model of the morphed surface and performs real-time tuning of the controllers. A morphing wing designed for a missile would optimally be capable of changing its sweep and span simultaneously, in order to provide superior roll moment to conventional missile control fins.

As almost all currently designed tactical missiles are centred on conventional fixed planform arrangement, the consideration for morphing concept in tactical missile systems calls for investigation into several exciting research areas, including aerodynamic modelling, non-rigid dynamics and flight control systems.

About Cruciform Missile : Difference between + and x flying orientation

MISSILES, historically, and even in current design and development are of cruciform type with low aspect ratio wing/control fins. This was mainly due to carriage point of view and more often than not, it needs to be stored in launch tube/canister unlike aircraft with high aspect ratio surfaces. In most instances, missiles fly in “plus +” or “cross x” orientation.

Considering pitch control of a cruciform missile, in “plus” configuration, if both the horizontal fins are deflected downward, by an amount δ, this results in an upward force F in the pitch axis. Now , the same missile with 45° roll orientation and all the four control fin deflected downward by an amount δ, a force equivalent to √2 times of the force F is produced in the vertical plane in the “cross” configuration.

Body axis coordinate system


Definition of Wind and Body axes flight parameters