X-32 - Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
X-32 Flight Tests
As the Concept Demonstration phase of the JSF program came to a close, Boeing proved the overall viability of its design using two demonstrator aircraft - the X-32A and X-32B - which were unveiled in December 1999. Both aircraft will validate JSF flight performance simulations and confirm that the advanced technologies and processes used can accurately predict future technical maturation of the Preferred Weapon System Concept.
The JSF Concept Demonstration Program is not meant to be a competitive fly-off. The Boeing JSF X-32 and Lockheed Martin JSF X-35 are not prototypes - they are technology demonstrators, hence the "X" designation, as opposed to the "Y" designation used for aircraft such as the YF-22 and the YF-23 (prototypes for the F-22). Both Boeing X-32 aircraft demonstrate how highly common variants of the same aircraft can be designed and built on a single product line.
Boeing has demonstrated its "design anywhere, build anywhere" capability. The JSF One Team has successfully used advanced design and assembly tools to design, build and test the X-32 and to mature future technologies. Because the JSF program has gathered real cost data from real processes, Boeing can offer the customer a degree of cost-confidence in its affordability projections.
Boeing is confident it can meet the government's cost requirements because the X-32 aircraft were assembled with 50 percent fewer people than planned, and consumed 50 percent fewer work hours than previous comparable aircraft. Boeing cut X-32 tooling costs by more than half over tooling costs in the YF-22 program, with 80 percent fewer defects. Overall fabrication and assembly costs were 30 to 40 percent below projections. The design and assembly methods that were so successful in the demonstration phase will be applied when the Joint Strike Fighter goes into production.
The X-32A is one of two aircraft Boeing has built to demonstrate the design concepts used for its operational JSF design. The X-32A will demonstrate conventional takeoff and landing handling capabilities for the U.S. Air Force as well as demonstrate the low-speed handling qualities necessary for carrier-based landings required by the U.S. Navy. The X-32A concept demonstrator made its first flight on 18 September 2000, from Edwards Air Force Base, California. The aircraft flew until 3 February 2001 when Boeing concluded the testing. Since first flight, the X-32A has completed 50.4 flight hours with six different Boeing and government pilots at the controls. Throughout the test program, the aircraft's actual performance has been consistent with predictions that are based on years of simulation work.
On 26 January 2001, the X-32A made its first flight with a loaded internal weapons bay, validating the design predictions of the aircraft's weapons carriage environment. The company ended 2000 by having the X-32A complete its first aerial refueling behind a KC-10 tanker on 21 December 2000, and the aircraft broke the sound barrier two days later. On 2 December 2000, Boeing completed 100 percent of the government-defined X-32A flight-test objectives by successfully completing low-speed approach aircraft carrier variant, (CV) tests.
On 29 March 2001 the Boeing Joint Strike Fighter X-32B demonstrator successfully completed its first flight, entering a four-month test program to validate the Boeing direct-lift approach to short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) flight. The X-32B will show how the U.S. Marine Corps' STOVL variant will transition between conventional flight to vertical flight. (The United Kingdom's Royal Navy and Royal Air Force also require this STOVL capability.) The second of the two Boeing-built concept demonstrators, the X-32B, will demonstrate the company's direct-lift approach to the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) requirements for the U.S. Marine Corps, U.K. Royal Air Force, and Royal Navy. The aircraft has the same wing as the X-32A and is approximately 85% common with its sister demonstrator. In January 2001, Boeing completed low- and medium-speed taxi tests of the X-32B at Palmdale, California. In more than 1,000 demonstrations on the STOVL engine test stand, transition times between conventional and vertical thrust, and back again, have been consistently accomplished in one to three seconds. This rapid and direct transition capability is critical for unrestricted STOVL operations and aircraft safety.
With its X-32 concept demonstrators, Boeing is clearly demonstrating that its JSF can be manufactured in an efficient, cost-effective way, using proven lean manufacturing techniques and superior program management processes.
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