EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.---The Boeing Joint Strike Fighter X-32A concept demonstrator aircraft broke the sound barrier today, expanding the flight envelope and meeting another of the company's ``up- and-away'' test objectives.
Lt. Col. Edward Cabrera, U.S. Air Force lead test pilot assigned to the Boeing X-32A test program, took the X-32A to 30,000 feet and exceeded Mach 1.0 in achieving supersonic flight at 8:30 a.m. PST. The flight was the aircraft's 49th since its Sept. 18 first flight.
"The X-32A approached and exceeded Mach 1 effortlessly, demonstrating significant tactical potential,'' Cabrera said. "I'm very impressed with the fact that the plane continues to fly as predicted based on extensive modeling and simulation.''
Frank Statkus, Boeing vice president and JSF general manager, said the milestone puts an exclamation point on what has been an extremely productive flight-test program to date.
"As planned, we completed the customer-required test objectives before moving on to our own conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) objectives, including supersonic flight,'' Statkus said. "We're extremely proud of the fact that we have accomplished 100 percent of the government-defined carrier variant (CV) test objectives as well as supersonic flight before the end of the year.
"It's important to note that we've done all this with one aircraft and without any modifications. That underscores the commonality of our design -- one of the customer's primary objectives in this phase of the program.''
The X-32A is more than halfway through the five-month flight-test program, which includes approximately 60 flights totaling about 75 hours to validate the JSF's predicted flying characteristics. The flights are split approximately 50-50 between CV and CTOL tests.
On Dec. 2, Boeing successfully completed all customer-required CV low- speed handling quality tests, designed to demonstrate flying and handling qualities during aircraft approaches and landings on a simulated aircraft carrier deck. Both government and Boeing pilots participated in the field carrier landing practice tests.
Boeing will now continue using the X-32A to expand the envelope and demonstrate key performance capabilities of the CTOL aircraft.
The second of the two JSF concept demonstrators, the X-32B, will demonstrate short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) capabilities for the U.S. Marine Corps, U.K. Royal Air Force and U.K. Royal Navy. Boeing completed X-32B structural mode integration testing Dec. 10 in Palmdale, Calif.; this is a precursor to ground-test engine runs. Low-speed taxi tests and first flight of the X-32B will occur early next year.
Boeing X-32 flight test is another key piece of the company's aggressive risk-reduction program, following closely on the heels of its groundbreaking avionics flying lab demonstrations, which culminated in delivery of a Joint Direct Attack Munition on a ground target in early June. In addition, the Boeing One Team concluded four highly successful full mission simulation demonstrations with government pilots, and full-scale signature and supportability pole model testing at both Boeing and government facilities.
The Boeing-led One Team is competing to build the JSF under a four-year U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps concept demonstration contract, while also defining the design for the operational JSF. A winner is scheduled to be selected in 2001.