Engineers working on Boeing's X-32B STOVL Joint Strike Fighter concept demonstrator aircraft have moved closer to a planned first flight in late March by completing engine runs and starting low and medium speed tests at Palmdale, California on 10 January.


Boeing's leading short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) test pilot Dennis O'Donoghue says the higher-powered X-32B aircraft handled "just like the X-32A", during the taxi tests which covered speeds up to 60kt (110km/h). The X-32B is fitted with the Pratt & Whitney JSF119-614 variant which is reputedly capable of thrust in excess of 40,000lb (180kN).

Pratt & Whitney, meanwhile, completed accelerated mission testing of the -614 engine at its West Palm Beach site in Florida earlier in the same week.

The critical milestone is a pre-requisite for first flight, and this involved running the engine through two simulated X-32B flight test profiles.

The engine is now being stripped down and inspected before the formal all-clear is given for the start of flight tests to validate basic air-worthiness before attempting STOVL transition testing at altitude.

Following clearance of the basic envelope and confirmation of STOVL transition ability, the X-32B will be flown to the US Navy's test site at Patuxent River, Maryland to continue tests. These will include vertical landings.

Source: Flight International