- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing's Joint Strike Fighter X-32B yesterday successfully made the transition from normal flight to a jetborne hover. The company called the development "a major aerospace milestone and a JSF program first."

Lockheed Martin Corp., which is competing with Boeing for the JSF contract, announced yesterday that its X-35B had also made two vertical takeoffs and landings, with 35-second hovers, during testing in Palmdale, Calif.

Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey demurred from comparing the programs directly.

"The most challenging part of the X-32B is the transition between conventional and STOVL — short takeoff and vertical landing — flight," Mr. Ramey said.

The Defense Department is expected to make a decision in October.

The JSF contract will be worth more than $200 billion, with production of an anticipated 3,000 fighters to begin in 2007.

The JSF — an all-in-one fighter for use by the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as Britain's Royal Navy — will replace a range of U.S. and British warplanes, including the Harrier, A-10 Wart Hog, F-14 Tomcat, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet.

The Harrier warplane can hover and land vertically, but the JSF successor will be supersonic with radar-baffling stealth technology.

Boeing's concept demonstrator "B plane" made the shift from conventional to hover flight in four flights yesterday at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.

It hovered for about eight minutes total — with the longest time at two minutes and 42 seconds, Mr. Ramey said. The plane made five flights yesterday, bringing its total to 47.

Boeing test pilot Dennis O'Donoghue successfully moved the X32-B from a flying position to a steady hover 200 feet above the ground on the plane's 44th flight, Mr. Ramey said.

He then put it through three more hovers.

On its 45th flight, the plane hovered at 200 feet, descended to 150 feet and then pressed back up to 200 feet.

On its 47th flight, it made a 360-degree turn, among other maneuvers.

The plane is expected to try its first vertical landing within days, Mr. Ramey said in Seattle.

Lockheed's X-35 B plane began testing this weekend in Palmdale. The plane made two brief hovers Saturday and yesterday made two vertical takeoffs and landings as well as "sustained altitude" flying, or hovering for about 35 seconds, said company spokesman John Kent.

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