Boeing Completes First JSF X-32A Aerial Refueling

IL Serge Pod #21.12.2000 23:29

Serge Pod


KC-10 Tanker Refuels X-32A Joint Strike Fighter
(Source : US Department of Defense ; issued Dec. 20, 2000)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.---The Joint Strike Fighter program reached a significant milestone here Dec. 19 when a KC-10 Extender from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., performed the first aerial refueling of Boeing's X-32A Joint Strike Fighter concept demonstrator. [not image]

The Travis crew, part of the 6th Air Refueling Squadron, joined people from Edwards' 418th Flight Test Squadron for the X-32A's 40th sortie. A five-month test period began here Sept. 18. This mission involved three contacts between the X-32A and the KC-10.

Because the X-32A is the Navy's JSF version, the KC-10 was required to refuel the X-32A with a drogue and probe. This required X-32A lead test pilot Cmdr. Phil Yates to carefully maneuver the fighter's refueling probe to a basket receptacle that flies freely behind the tanker. Even though probe and drogue refueling is primarily performed on Navy aircraft by Marine Corps C-130s, Yates said the KC-10 was the best choice for this mission.

"The KC-10 is a more stable platform as opposed to the C-130s and is more flexible," Yates said. "Plus, the 'J' in JSF means joint. The ability to be refueled by multiple aircraft from different services increases the JSF's efficiency."

While aerial refueling will be inherent to the JSF's mission, this test mission fulfilled some of the program's short-term goals: give the X-32A greater test flexibility, increase the aircraft's test efficiency and to see if the KC-10 can accompany — or drag — the X-32A on its cross-country flight to Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Md., in 2001 for its next series of tests.

Prior to the flight, Yates said this mission was not treated as an average air refueling sortie.

"I have not been this concerned about an X-32A flight since its first flight," Yates said. "The pilot has a lot of control inputs to get the jet hooked up. The boom operator can't guide the aircraft in like in boom refuelings."

A small array of air data instruments on the nose of the aircraft added another level of difficulty to the flight. With only 18 inches of clearance between the fighter's nose and the tanker's basket once it is connected, an unsuccessful attempt to dock with the KC-10 could knock the basket around and cause damage to the aircraft.
The mission commander for the refueling said his crew was pleased when they received news that they would be making this test flight.

"It is honor to be a footnote in the X-32A and JSF program's developmental history," said Lt. Col. Dan Favorite, from the 6th ARS.

The X-32 is one of two JSF concept demonstrators, with Lockheed Martin's X-35 being the other, undergoing tests at Edwards.

The JSF is meant to replace the aging F-16 Fighting Falcon, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the AV-8B Harrier and the F/A 18 Hornet. The Department of Defense is looking to establish commonality and modularity between different JSF models, to demonstrate the short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities of the Marine Corps and British versions, and to demonstrate low-speed and handling qualities of aircraft carrier approaches for the Navy version. (ends)

Boeing Completes First JSF X-32A Aerial Refueling

(Source : Boeing Co. ; issued Dec. 20, 2000)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.---The Boeing Joint Strike Fighter X-32A concept demonstrator aircraft yesterday successfully completed its first aerial refueling.

Flying at 20,000 feet and 235 knots, the X-32A maneuvered into the refueling drogue and effortlessly maintained its position below the KC-10 tanker.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Philip "Rowdy" Yates, the U.S. government's lead test pilot for the Boeing JSF program, said the successful flight validated the handling qualities required for the Navy air-refueling task.

"The reliability and 'flyability' of the X-32A is impressive and has allowed us to step very quickly through these X-32A test objectives," Yates said.

Following refueling, the X-32A continued to expand the flight envelope. As of today, the X-32A has made 45 flights.

"We're extremely pleased with our fly rate, and also with the fact that we've met 100 percent of the customer's aircraft carrier variant (CV) test objectives so early in the program," said Mike Heinz, Boeing vice president and JSF deputy program manager. "I think our success goes a long way toward demonstrating to the customer how well we will perform during the next phase of the program.

"We're also gratified that the Boeing JSF flight test program to date has shown the customer unprecedented matching of actual performance with what we predicted through years of simulation."

As part of the planned five-month flight-test program at Edwards, the Boeing X-32A will complete approximately 60 flights totaling about 75 hours to validate the JSF's predicted flying characteristics. The flights are split approximately 50-50 between CV and conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) tests.

On Dec. 2, Boeing successfully completed its customer-required CV tests, designed to demonstrate flying and handling qualities during simulated low-speed aircraft carrier approach. Boeing is now using the X-32A to expand the flight envelope and demonstrate key performance capabilities of the CTOL variant.

"Our Air Force and Navy designs are so highly common - same wing, same systems - we're using one aircraft, the X-32A, to demonstrate both the CV and CTOL handling qualities without any modifications or changes to the aircraft," Heinz added.

The second of the two Boeing JSF concept demonstrators, the X-32B, will demonstrate short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) capabilities for the U.S. Marine Corps, U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. The aircraft has the same wing and is approximately 90 percent common with the X-32A.

Boeing completed X-32B structural mode integration testing Dec. 10 in Palmdale, Calif., a precursor to ongoing STOVL engine runs. Low-speed taxi tests and first flight of the X-32B will occur next year.

Boeing X-32 flight test is another key piece of the company's aggressive risk-reduction program, following closely on the heels of its groundbreaking avionics flying lab demonstrations, full-mission simulation demonstrations, and full-scale signature and supportability pole model testing.

The Boeing-led One Team is competing to build the JSF under a four-year U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps concept demonstration contract, while also defining the design for the operational JSF. A winner is scheduled to be selected in 2001.

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