PALMDALE, Calif.---The Boeing Joint Strike Fighter X-32B demonstrator today 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.
During the 50-minute conventional flight to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., from Palmdale, Boeing JSF lead STOVL test pilot Dennis O'Donoghue put the X-32B through a series of initial airworthiness tests, including flying qualities and subsystems checkout.
"I felt right at home in the X-32B," O'Donoghue said. "It flew exactly like the X-32A, which is a real tribute to the commonality of the Boeing design. Today's flight means we'll be as successful in demonstrating STOVL flying qualities and performance with the X-32B as we were with the X-32A in demonstrating conventional-takeoff-and landing and carrier-approach performance."
The X-32A completed flight testing Feb. 3 after 66 flights and 50.4 flight hours with six different Boeing and government pilots. The X-32A demonstrated conventional takeoff and landing for the U.S. Air Force and carrier-approach flying qualities for the U.S. Navy.
The X-32B will complete a number of flights at Edwards before moving to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., for the majority of STOVL testing. The overall flight-test program will include approximately 55 flights totaling about 40 hours.
"Today's milestone flight is a tribute to our JSF One Team and further evidence of our ability to meet commitments," said Frank Stakus, Boeing vice president and JSF general manager. "I'm confident that as we move through flight test it will be evident that direct lift is the best solution to STOVL flight."
The X-32B will demonstrate the company's direct-lift approach to the STOVL requirements for the U.S. Marine Corps and the United Kingdom's Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Boeing has 30 years experience with direct lift - the only combat-proven approach to STOVL flight.
"Our STOVL design uses matured technology to improve an operational design rather than invent a new system and wait to mature it in the future," Statkus said.
To perform STOVL flight, the Boeing system closes the rear exhaust nozzle and redirects engine thrust downward through two lift nozzles. For conventional flight, the lift nozzles are closed and thrust flows rearward through the two-dimensional thrust-vectoring cruise nozzle - the same as in the X-32A - to propel the aircraft forward and to supersonic speeds.
In addition to their flying performance, both aircraft have provided valuable data about the essential issue of program cost.
"Our team used the same advanced tools and processes to design, build and test the X-32 concept demonstrators that we will use in the next phase of the program," Statkus said. "Because we used these tools and processes now, we generated verifiable cost data to support our affordability projections. And ultimately, affordability is the bottom line for JSF."
Boeing 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 competition winner is scheduled to be selected later this year.
Boeing JSF X-32B Completes Successful First Flight