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Boeing/Lockheed Martin halt JAST talks

LOCKHEED MARTIN and Boeing have suspended talks over teaming on the US Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) programme at least until contracts are awarded in mid-1996.

The two companies began talks earlier this year, when it became clear that the JAST project was going to absorb the advanced short take-off and vertical landing (ASTOVL) programme faster than expected (Flight International, 15-21 February).

Four teams - Boeing, Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas/British Aerospace and Northrop Grumman - were already competing to build STOVL-capable demonstrators (dubbed the X-32) for the US Advanced Research Projects Agency's ASTOVL effort.

Teaming talks took place against a background of fears that with the programme merger, the number of contracts for STOVL-capable demonstrators would be drastically cut back, or even eliminated.

The talks appear to have foundered, over who would lead the programme. Neither side wishes to abandon its own technological solution to the JAST requirement.

The JAST programme calls for a ground-attack/air-superiority aircraft, which can replace a wide variety of tactical types, in US and allied service.

"We've agreed that we will wait for the competition to take place before going any further," says Paul Bevilaqua, the ASTOVL deputy programme manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works (formerly Lockheed Advanced Development).

Lockheed Martin is proposing a shaft-driven lift-fan aircraft using many features developed for the F-22 fighter, while Boeing is developing a direct-lift delta-shaped concept.

Bevilaqua was speaking as Lockheed Martin briefly unveiled its completed 86%-scale flying JAST model at the "Skunk Works" on 27 April. This has now been shipped to NASA Ames, California, for hover testing starting in September.

The aircraft is scaled to 86% of the full size to match the Pratt & Whitney F100-220 plus engine, which simulates the slightly larger F119 power plant planned for the full-scale demonstrator.

A vertical lift fan, located aft of the cockpit on the spine of the model, is the most distinctive design feature.

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