Warplanes: November 9, 2001

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Lockheed Martin's victory over Boeing in the Joint Strike Fighter project is a big win, but no one doubts that Boeing will survive as a company and will get plenty of Pentagon business. The military is expected to order more C-17 transports, as well as new tankers and surveillance aircraft based on the 767 airframe to replace old aircraft based on the 707. The Pentagon has said it will not force Lockheed Martin to share the work with Boeing but would be pleased if it did. Lockheed Martin's aircraft won on several points. The vertical-landing version used a separate lift fan, which (because it uses colder ambient air) produces more thrust and was more efficient. The Lockheed Martin design used a traditional S-shaped engine inlet to keep enemy radar from hitting the face of the turbine (which would make the plane easy to detect); Boeing used a "Venetian blind" system that was considered a technological risk. Probably the key advantage of the Lockheed Martin design was the infrared sensor, which was mounted behind a window in the chin. The Boeing design kept this sensor retracted and deployed it only during the critical phase of the attack. Lockheed Martin will build its aircraft as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It will initially use the Pratt & Whitney F119 (now called F135) engine, although the GE F120 will compete for the honor in future years. The F119 is used by the F22, and the plan is for the F120 and the F119/F135 to be easily interchangeable. The Boeing design was known as the F-32. Lockheed Martin will build 3,000 F-35s, including 1,763 for the US Air Force, 609 for the Marines, 480 for the Navy, and 150 for the British. Export orders could easily add another 3,000 to the production run. The next step is a development program that will produce 7 non-flying and 14 flying aircraft (six conventional, four carrier, and four vertical-take-off versions). Low-rate production will begin in 2006. The Air Force and Marines will begin operating F-35 JSFs by 2008; the British and US Navy in 2010. Formal "operations capability" will come in 2010 for the Marines, 2011 for the Air Force, and in 2012 for the Navy and British. Several foreign countries have bought into the JSF program, although they have not signed contracts to buy aircraft. These include Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Norway, and Denmark.--Stephen V Cole

 


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