An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Specifications

  • Crew: 2 (pilot and safety pilot)
  • Length: 48 ft 7 in (14.8 m)
  • Wingspan: 32 ft 2 in (9.8 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 9 in (4.8 m)
  • Wing area: 300 sq ft (28 m2)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A204 root and tip
  • Empty weight: 18,238 lb (8,273 kg)
  • Gross weight: 26,463 lb (12,003 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 42,300 lb (19,187 kg)
  • Powerplant:General Electric F110-GE-100 afterburning turbofan, 16,600 lbf (74 kN) thrust dry, 28,200 lbf (125 kN) with afterburner

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 1,170 kn (1,350 mph, 2,170 km/h)
At sea level: Mach 1.2 (915 mph, 1,460 km/h)
At altitude: Mach 2+
  • Ferry range: 2,800 nmi (3,200 mi, 5,200 km) with 3× 370 US gal (1,401 l) drop tanks
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m) +
  • Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min (250 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 88.2 lb/sq ft (431 kg/m2)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.095

About The X62A Vista

The VISTA, which is operated by the Air Force Test Pilot School with the support of Calspan and Lockheed Martin, first flew in 1992 and has been a staple of the TPS curriculum. It has provided TPS students the ability to experience various flying conditions including simulation of other aircrafts’ characteristics.

“For more than two decades VISTA has been a vital asset for the USAF TPS and the embodiment of our goal to be part of the cutting edge of flight test and aerospace technology,” said William Gray, VISTA and TPS chief test pilot. “It has given almost a thousand students and staff members the opportunity to practice testing aircraft with dangerously poor flying qualities, and to execute risk-reduction flight test programs for advanced technologies.”

The VISTA is currently in the midst of an upgrade program which will fully replace the VISTA Simulation System (VSS). The upgrade program will also add a new system called the System for Autonomous Control of Simulation (SACS) to support autonomy testing for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Skyborg program.

“The redesignation reflects the research done on the aircraft over the past almost 30 years, as well as acknowledges the major upgrade program that is ongoing to support future USAF autonomy testing,” said Dr. Chris Cotting, USAF TPS director of research.

Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments. The program will enable airborne combat mass by building a transferable autonomy foundation for a family of layered, unmanned air vehicles. This foundation will deliver unmatched combat capability per dollar by lowering the barriers to entry for industry and allowing continuous hardware and software innovation in acquisition, fielding and sustainment of critical mission systems. During this effort, AFRL will prototype a suite of autonomy and unmanned system technologies equipped with capabilities that can support a range of Air Force missions.

Skyborg will not replace human pilots. Instead, it will provide them with key data to support rapid, informed decisions. In this manner, Skyborg will provide manned teammates with greater situational awareness and survivability during combat missions.

The VISTA started life as a Block 30 F-16D. Throughout its life, it has received numerous upgrades and modifications.  VISTA was originally given the N prefix to denote its status as Special Test, Permanent. The N prefix indicates aircraft on a special test program whose configuration is so drastically changed that return to its original configuration or conversion to standard operational configuration is beyond practicable or economic limits.

“We have found ways to use VISTA that were not envisioned by the original designers, so we were running into frustrating limitations,” Gray said. “The modifications will address these limitations and profoundly improve our ability to quickly and safely test an almost unlimited variety of radical control law configurations. Even so, the X-62A will continue to serve as a curriculum aircraft, and will be an even brighter symbol of our aspirations.”

The X designation denotes aircraft that are designed for testing configurations of a radical nature. X aircraft are not normally intended for use as tactical aircraft. Following its redesignation to X-62A, VISTA now joins a storied family of aircraft such as the Bell X-1, the first airplane to break the sound barrier, and the hypersonic, rocket-powered North American X-15, which holds the record as the fastest manned aircraft.

“VISTA will serve as one of the main assets of the newly-created Research Division at USAF TPS,” Cotting said. “As part of the upgrade program, VISTA has been redesignated from the NF-16D VISTA to the X-62A VISTA, making USAF TPS the only test pilot school with an active X plane supporting its curriculum.”

About The USAF Test Pilot School

The fundamental key to success in aerospace flight test and evaluation is the individual member of the flight test team: the flight test pilot, of course, but nowadays the trained flight test engineer and navigator as well. Without him - and increasingly, her - the fundamental work of the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base would literally be impossible.

Bravery and flying skills of the highest order have always been requirements for the flight test mission, but much more is demanded of today's flight test professionals: scientific and engineering knowledge, critical and reasoned judgment, and managerial skills of the first order. A well-devised flight test program, skillfully carried out, calls forth the absolute performance of the aircraft and its associated systems. Finding the people who are capable of planning and flying such a program is not easy, nor is the process automatic.

Contrary to the romanticized view of old Hollywood films, test pilots are not "born" to their talents - they are painstakingly made. Natural ability in the air is necessary, of course, but a delicate touch on the controls and absolute precision on the air are needed - not slapdash bravado.

The test pilot will be following carefully-crafted flight profiles, not daring aerial maneuvers. They must be taught to handle his airplane with extraordinary precision: to control their airspeed to the nearest knot, and their altitude virtually to the foot--every time. Beyond this, the student test pilot must have a natural affinity for mechanical systems, an ability to "feel" the airplane and have a well-honed sense of what is happening at any given time. Mature and reasoned judgment is also vital - human lives, and millions of dollars, depend upon how carefully a test mission is planned and flown. But all of these skills would be useless without knowledge and training - systematic training in gathering flight data, and then interpreting it. Minutes spent in precision flying must be matched by hours of painstaking effort at computers, in the library, and around the conference table.

It is obvious that in the world of flight testing, there simply is no room for "second best." That is why the Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) takes such pains to make certain that its graduates are the equal to any in their profession.

X62A Vista Headlines