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The strain in thin GaN layers grown by maskless pendeoepitaxy has been investigated using high-resolution x-ray diffraction and finite-element simulations. The crystallographic tilt of the free-hanging wings was determined to result from the strain relaxation of the seed stripes along . The impact of the dimensions of the pendeostructure and of the formation of crystal defects on the expected wing tilt is discussed. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.