Futuristic M-60 at Le Bourget

The central place among models of currently produced military and civilian aircraft in the hall of the Russian United Aircraft Corporation at the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget was occupied by the futuristic M-60 project.

The M-60 is a product of the EMZ Myasishchev design team at Zhukovsky. It is one of many proposals for a breakthrough product for the Russian aircraft industry. Funding for this research, called Samolet-2020 (Airplane-2020), commenced in 2011. Suggestions for Airplane-2020 include, among others, a 120-tonne supersonic executive aircraft, a long-range flying wing passenger aircraft and an aircraft powered by cryogenic fuel. The core of the M-60 project is its wide, flat lifting body that acts as a small aspect-ratio wing. The sides of the body create the leading edge of a high sweep angle and generate two powerful vortices, allowing for an airflow without separation around the body in a wide range of angles of attack. The low mounted wings are lightly swept high-aspect ratio with a supercritical section. A V-shaped tail is attached to the top of the body with the engines between the fins. According to the company this configuration allows for a very high lift-to-drag ratio at Mach 0.76. Another advantage is the exceptionally large capacity of the fuselage.

The position of the engines means there are no limitations to their diameter and therefore the bypass ratio. The vortices generated by the body deflect the boundary layer from the upper surface of the body or fuselage, which makes the air intakes more efficient with no risk of flameout. The position of the engines also protects them from foreign object damage and their noise is screened by the empennage and rear fuselage.

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Getting these advantages comes at a price. Manufacturing the wide lifting body is a huge technological challenge. The distinctive shape is formed by inflating the composite structure of the M-60 fuselage from the inside. Historically, the problem of preventing the fuselage ending up as a circle, rather than the preferred oval, has been insurmountable and additional reinforcements had to be used to obtain the necessary strength of the oval fuselage, adding weight and cost. Myasishchev claims that by using new technologies it is possible to design a pressurised lifting body of a weight and strength similar to a conventional fuselage of circular section. Currently the company is building a section of oval fuselage with a lattice structure made of composites, which will be later used for fatigue tests.

Older readers may remember earlier iterations of the M-60 project, which was begun by a Myasishchev team as early as 1979 and then reappeared in various forms over the decades.

Currently the M-60 is being considered in the Perspektivnyi Transportnyi Samolet (Future Transport Aircraft) competition for a family of transport aircraft with a load capacity of 80 to 240 tonnes.