A lot of you are probably familiar with the four year battle between Boeing and Lockheed Martin to secure a USD$250 Billion contract with the U.S. military to supply a new joint strike fighter. In the end, Lockheed Martin won the contract. I saw an interesting show on National Geographic last night about it.
The aircraft had to have stealth, fly super sonic and possess VTOL capabilities. It was interesting to see how the designs differed.
The Boeing X32 was contravertial in shape (as you'll see in the link), but I actually really like it. It does grow on you. Although Boeing seemed ahead of its competition for most of the four years,
there were two main design issues it seem to have.
Firstly, air to air refueling was scrubbed during the initial development program as it was deemed to too dangerous. It used a conventional extendible probe to the side of the cockpit canopy. During testing, the fuel boom almost damaged some test sensors protruding from the nose of the aircraft. They were worried that the engine would ingest any dislodged parts. Also, for some reason the boom failed to secure properly and a large qty of fuel sprayed down the side of the aircraft.
Secondly, the Boeing used a conventional VTOL system similiar to the Harrier in their jet. The problem was that during landing there was a risk that the engine might ingest its own super heated exhaust gases and essentially choke, resulting in a pop stall. This actually happened during testing. The upside of the system was its simplicity.
Unfortunately (yes I am a Boeing addict), Boeing never illustrated that the aircraft could fly super sonic and transition from foward to vertical flight in its full configuration. They even had to remove 1500 pounds of cowling for VTOL testing.
Althought the LM F-35 looked more conventional, its real strength came from its revolutionary VTOL system. It was supported by two coloums of thrust. The first was at the rear of the plane, where the exhaust nozzle was directed down. The second was a fan towards the front that was driven by an axle from the engine, and blew cool air from above the aircraft too below it. This protected the plane from the dreaded heated gas ingestion. The downside was that it was mecahnically much more complex, requiring a symphony of moving parts and doors.
So what are your opinions? Did the US military make the right choice? I believe they did, because the F-35 just seemed more complete. Seeing these forums cotain a lot of people very knowledgeable in these areas, I thought I'd ask to see what others thought....
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