Alan Dron Boeing will fly its X-32A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) contender "within the next three weeks", the company's project boss said at the show yesterday. Frank Statkus continues to decline to name a precise date for the first flight, although it is understood that one has been set. Low- and medium-speed taxy trials have been completed and the company aims to undertake up to four days of high-speed taxying before initial take-off. Detailing the X-32A's latest milestones, Statkus, vice-president and general manager of the Boeing JSF programme, says the latest week-long programme management review and technical review was successfully completed around 10 days ago. Among other areas to have been completed in recent weeks was a live-fire test of the X-32A's mission system. Mounted in a functioning JSF 'cockpit' in a Boeing 737 testbed, the system was used to locate a ground target (a truck) and pass the information to another aircraft, which successfully destroyed it with a Joint Direct Attack Munition. "There's now a truck painted on the nose of the 737," notes Statkus, drily. The X-32 mock-up at the show, classed as configuration 374.2, just one step away from the finalised aircraft Boeing will put forward for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the contract, is a hybrid. It combines the port wing of the -A (conventional take-off and landing) version and the smaller starboard wing of the -B (STOVL) variant, which has a span of just under a metre less than its port counterpart. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin is due to fly its competing X-35A within the next month or so. Like Boeing, it says its aircraft is close to final configuration. All development testing is complete for the propulsion system going into the CTOL and US Navy carrier-capable and all accelerated mission testing is complete. Lockheed Martin is still testing the propulsion system for its STOVL version, but has demonstrated maximum thrust in its hover mode. The X-35B STOVL variant is scheduled to fly in the first quarter of 2001.It is understood to have achieved for the first time its target of translating from full forward thrust to full lift fan in five seconds.

Source: Flight Daily News