Boeing X-32

Boeing X-32

infobox Aircraft
name = Boeing X-32 JSF
type = Experimental fighter
manufacturer = Boeing

caption = Boeing X-32A CTOL variant
designer =
first flight = September 2000
introduced =
status =
primary user = Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
more users =
produced =
number built =
unit cost =
variants with their own articles =

The Boeing X-32 was a multi-purpose jet fighter in the Joint Strike Fighter contest. It lost to the Lockheed Martin X-35 demonstrator which was further developed into the F-35 Lightning II.



In 1993, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched the Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter project (CALF). The project's purpose was to develop a stealth-enabled design to replace all of US DoD lighter weight fighter and attack aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and short takeoff / vertical landing (STOVL) AV-8B Harrier II. [ [ DARPA / Navy Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) 1993-1994] ,] Around the same time the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) project was started. [ [ Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST)] ,] In 1994, the US Congress ordered the two to be merged into the Joint Strike Fighter Program.

Many companies took part in the first phase of this project, which involved drafting concept aircraft designs for submission to the Department of Defense. However on 16 November 1996, only Boeing and Lockheed Martin were awarded contracts, allowing them to produce two of their concept aircraft each. Under the contract, these fighters were required to demonstrate Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL), carrier take off and landing (CV version), and short take off and vertical landing (STOVL). They were also expected to include ground demonstrations of a production representative aircraft's systems, such as the Preferred Weapon System Concept (PWSC).

One major departure from previous projects was the prohibition of the companies from using their own money to finance development. Each was awarded $750 million to produce their two aircraft – including avionics, software and hardware. This limitation promoted the adoption of low cost manufacturing and assembly techniques, and also prevented either Boeing or Lockheed Martin from bankrupting themselves in an effort to win such an important contest.

Designing the X-32

The X-32 featured a large chin mounted air intake and a large one piece carbon fiber composite wing, neither of which contributed to the sleek, awe-inspiring look expected from a high tech fighter, though the design does resemble the design of some Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). The wing would prove a challenge to fabricate.cite episode | title = Battle of the X-Planes | url = | series = NOVA | serieslink = NOVA (TV series) | airdate = 2003-02-04 | transcripturl =] Boeing had proposed in the 1960s a similarly aesthetically challenged supersonic fighter with a mid-center-of-gravity mounted engine with vectored thrust nozzles, but this never proceeded beyond pictures published in Aviation Week. By comparison, the Lockheed entry looked like, if anything, a sleeker version of the larger F-22 Raptor stealth fighter. Aesthetics would play no role in official scoring, but many defense analysts commented that fighters usually looked right, though the highly successful "double ugly" F-4 Phantom was a notable exception to this rule.

Design changes

The two X-32 prototypes featured a delta wing design, which was chosen to minimize production manufacturing costs. However, eight months into construction of the prototypes, the JSF's maneuverability and payload requirements were refined at the request of the Navy and Boeing's delta wing design fell short of the new targets. Engineers put together a new design with a conventional tail (narrowly beating out a Pelikan tail) with reduced weight and improved agility, but it was too late to change the prototypes. It was judged that they would be sufficient to demonstrate Boeing's technology.

Flight testing

Due to the heavy delta wing design of the prototypes, Boeing demonstrated STOVL and supersonic flight in separate configurations, with the STOVL configuration requiring that some parts be removed from the fighter. The company promised that their conventional tail design for production models would not require separate configurations. By contrast, the Lockheed Martin X-35 prototypes were capable of transitioning between their STOVL and supersonic configurations in mid-flight.

The first flight of the X-32A (designed for CTOL and carrier trials) took place in September 2000, from Boeing's Palmdale plant to Edwards Air Force Base. The X-32B demonstrated STOVL flight, first flying in March 2001. The X-32 achieved STOVL flight in much the same way as the AV-8 Harrier II with thrust vectoring of the jet and fan exhaust. The Lockheed Martin team used a riskier alternative, a shaft-driven lift fan powered by the main engine which was designed to generate more thrust than possible with only direct exhaust gases. A successful design would have greater payload, and thus longer range than a simple thrust vectored turbofan.

Flight testing of both companies' aircraft continued until July 2001.

JSF competition

On 26 October 2001 the Department of Defense announced that the Lockheed Martin X-35 (later named the F-35 Lightning II) won the JSF competition. One of the main reasons for this choice appears to have been the method of achieving STOVL flight, with the Department of Defense judging that the higher performance lift fan system was worth the extra risk. When near to the ground, the Boeing X-32 suffers from the problem of hot air from the exhaust circulating back to the main engine, which causes the thrust to weaken and the engine to overheat.

The loss of the JSF contract to Lockheed Martin in 2001 was a major blow to Boeing, as it represented the most important international fighter aircraft project since the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The production run of the JSF is estimated at anywhere between 3000 and 5000. Prior to the awarding of the contract many lawmakers pushed the idea of retaining the losing competitor as a sub-contractor, however the "winner takes all" principle was not changed.

Boeing views its investment in the X-32 as a strategic investment, yielding important technologies which it has been able to adopt in the F/A-18 Super Hornet and other studies.

In 2005 the Boeing X-32A was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Its condition had deteriorated due to sitting outside for several years following the end of the JSF competition. The X-32B was restored and is now on display at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station's Naval Air Museum in St. Mary's County, Maryland.


aircraft specifications
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=jet

length main= 50.77 ft
length alt= 15.47 m
span main= 36 ft
span alt= 10.97 m
height main=
height alt= 5.28 m
area main= 590 ft²
area alt=54.8 m²
empty weight main=
empty weight alt= 10,900 kg
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
useful load main=
useful load alt= 19,000 kg
max takeoff weight main= 38,000 lb
max takeoff weight alt= 17,200 kg
more general=
engine (jet)=Pratt & Whitney F135
type of jet=afterburning turbofan
number of jets=1
thrust main= ~26,000 lbf
thrust alt= 117 kN
thrust original=
afterburning thrust main= 35,000+ lbf
afterburning thrust alt= 155.7+ kN
max speed main= Mach 1.6
max speed alt= 1,200 mph, 1,931 km/h
max speed more= at altitude
cruise speed main=
cruise speed alt=
never exceed speed main=
never exceed speed alt=
stall speed main=
stall speed alt=
range main=
range alt=
ceiling main=
ceiling alt=
climb rate main=
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loading main=
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  • Range on USAF mission profile: 850 NM (1,575 km)
  • Range on United States Navy mission profile: 750 NM (1,390 km)
  • Range on USMC/RN mission profile: 594 NM (1,100 km)
  • 20 mm M61A2 cannon, or 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon
  • Internal: 6 AMRAAM AAMs or 2 AMRAAM AAMs and 2 x 2,000 lb (900 kg) class guided bombs
  • External: Approx. 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of full range of external stores including guided weapons, anti-radiation missile, air-to-surface weapons, auxiliary fuel tanks

    ee also

    similar aircraft=
    *Grumman X-29
    *Rockwell-MBB X-31
    *Lockheed Martin X-35
    *F-35 Lightning II
    X-29 -
    X-30 -
    X-31 -X-32 -
    X-33 -
    X-34 -
    *List of experimental aircraft
    see also=
    *Comparison of 21st century fighter aircraft
    *Future Offensive Air System


    External links

    * [ Joint Strike Fighter - Federation of American Scientists]
    * [ PBS Documentary. NOVA: JSF Selection]
    * [ X-32 - Global Security]
    * [ X-32B - Patuxent River Naval Air Museum]
    * [ Boeing X-32B Aircraft Transferred to Pax River Museum]

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