Boeing X-32

1st Flight 2000

The Boeing X-32 is a concept demonstrator aircraft that was designed for the Joint Strike Fighter competition.

It lost to the Lockheed Martin X-35 demonstrator, which was further developed into the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

Boeing’s strategy for a competitive advantage was to offer substantially lower manufacturing and life-cycle costs by minimizing variations between the different JSF versions.

The X-32 therefore was designed around a large one piece carbon fiber composite delta wing.

The wing had a span of 9.15 meters, with a 55-degree leading edge sweep, and could hold up to 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg) of fuel.

The purpose of the high sweep angle was to allow for a thick wing section to be used while still providing limited transonic aerodynamic drag, and to provide a good angle for wing-installed conformal antenna equipment.

The wing would prove a challenge to fabricate.

The compete-on-cost strategy also led Boeing to pick a direct-lift thrust vectoring system, for the Marines’ short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) requirement, as this would only necessitate the addition of a thrust vectoring module around the main engine.

However, this choice required the engine to be mounted directly behind the cockpit, and moved the center of gravity forward from its usual position in jet fighters to enable a neutral-attitude hover.

Boeing had proposed, in the 1960s, a similar 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 smaller version of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.

The Boeing in-house nickname of the X-32 was the “Monica”.

Yet another effect of the selection of the direct-lift system was the large chin-mounted air intake.

This was required to feed sufficient air to the main engine during the zero horizontal velocity phase, when it could not exploit ram-air pressure.

A knock on effect of this large intake, was the potential direct visibility of the compressor blades to radar.

Mitigation possibilities included variable baffles designed to block incoming radio waves without adversely affecting airflow.

Specifications

Crew

1

Length

45 ft 0.1 in (13.72 m)

Wingspan

36 ft 0 in (10.97 m)

Height

17 ft 3.8 in (5.28 m)

Wing area

590 sq ft (54.8 m2)

Empty weight

24,030 lb (10,900 kg)

Max take-off weight

38,000 lb (17,200 kg)

Powerplant

1 × Pratt & Whitney YF119-PW-614 afterburning turbofan, 28,000 lbf (120 kN) thrust dry, 43,000 lbf (190 kN) with afterburner

Performance

Maximum speed

1,200 mph (1,931 km/h, 1,000 kn) at altitude

Maximum speed

Mach 1.6

Range on USAF mission profile

850 nmi (1574 km)

Range on USN mission profile

750 nmi (1,389 km)

Range on USMC/RN mission profile

600 nmi (1112 km)

Armament

20 mm M61A2 cannon, or 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon

Internal

6 AMRAAM air-air missiles or 2 AMRAAM air-air missiles 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, and auxiliary fuel tanks.

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