Originally posted by Figher Master FIN
This is just a short thread about a couple of NASAs latest X projects...
This post is rather outdated since just about every project mentioned has either been completed or cancelled. Even the source cited is over six years
The picture you show is not the X-32 that was ultimately built. The X-32 was originally supposed to be a Short Takeoff and Landing (STOVL) test
vehicle funded by the Adbanced Research Project Agency (ARPA). The effort was called the Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) and its purpose
was to explore the feasability of a single fighter that could be built in different versions for various services. The plane that was to be built was
a supersonic STOVL aircraft, and I believe the photo you posted is an early concept for what that plane would have looked like. Instead, CALF was
merged with several other efforts resulting in the far more ambitious Joint Strike Fighter program. Whereas CALF was only intended to be a concept
demonstration, JSF became a competition between two companies to build a production aircraft.
The X-32 designation was given to Boeing's entry in the JSF project, which ultimately bore only a superficial resemblance to the picture shown. The
X-32 did not use a lift fan for STOVL flight but instead adopted thrust vectoring nozzles similar to those used on the Harrier.
The other X plane designation re-used for JSF was the X-35. This designation was originally supoosed to be used for a concept demonstration of
advanced fighter concepts. It was then given instead to the Lockheed Martin entry in the JSF project. This version was declared the winner of a
production contract in 2001 and is known as the F-35. The first F-35 is due to be completed in 2006.
The X-32 and X-35 were purely test aircraft, and neither one has flown since 2001 when the "competition" between them ended.
The X-33 was cancelled in 2001. It was about 75% complete at the time, but it was decided that the project had grown far too expensive and was not
going to meet its performance goals. The incomplete test vehicle is in storage at Lockheed's factory in Palmdale, California. There were rumors in
2001-2002 that Congress might approve additional funding to complete the vehicle and have it tested by the Air Force, but this never happened.
The X-34 was also cancelled by NASA at the same time as the X-33. This reusable launch vehicle concept had also become too expensive to complete was
deemed unable to meet its specifications.
The X-36 was an unmanned, subscale test vehicle designed to test control systems for tailless aircraft. Its original test program was completed in
1997 and a supplemental series of flights wrapped up in 1998. The plane has since been donated to the Air Force Museum in Ohio.
X-38 test flights began in 1997, but these were only captive flights conducted with the test vehicle attached to the B-52 mother plane. The X-38 made
its first free flight in 1998. A total of eight flights were conducted through the end of 2001 when additional funding for the program was
The X-37 appears to be in limbo. It was oriignally a NASA project but was later transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
in 2003. Funding was cut back severely and it is unclear when or if any test flights will be conducted.
The X-43 program is complete. Three test flights were attempted. The first failed in 2001 because of a design flaw in the rocket booster. A Mach
6.8 flight was successfully conducted in March 2004 and a Mach 9.6 test flight occurred in November 2004. No further tests of the X-43A are
NASA and the USAF also have plans to build more advanced versions called the X-43B, X-43C, and X-43D. The X-43C had since been cancelled. The status
of the B and D is not as clear. They may still be in the early stages of development, but it sounds like they have been suspended, if not cancelled