Lockheed’s Fighter Jet Successful
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Lockheed Martin’s demonstrator X-35A, competing to become the Pentagon’s next generation fighter and worth $200 billion to its builder, made what the test pilot called a ``sparkling″ first flight.
The jet flew Tuesday at only 10,000 feet during a 22-minute flight between Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Base, where the Space Shuttle landed later in the day.
The aircraft did not break the sound barrier and was not otherwise pushed during takeoff or in turns. The only problem, called minor by pilot Tom Morgenfeld, was a signal malfunction which showed a landing gear door open when it wasn’t.
``There were no surprises. It flew exactly as we expected it to,″ he said. ``The performance was absolutely sparkling. The landing was one of the easiest I’ve ever done.″
Maryland-based Lockheed and Seattle-based Boeing Co. are competing for a Pentagon contract to build the Joint Strike Fighter. It is designed as an all-in-one jet to replace F-16s, vertical-takeoff Harriers and several other jets now used by the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and Britain’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
Lockheed officials did not reveal a projected price, but Pentagon specifications place it at $28 million to $38 million per plane, depending on the version.
The winner of the contract should be named next year, with production of an anticipated 3,000 fighters to begin in 2007.
Boeing’s X-32A demonstrator made its first flight last month at Edwards.
On the Net:
Joint Strike Fighter program office: http://www.jast.mil
Lockheed Martin: http://www.lockheedmartin.com
The Boeing Co.: http://www.boeing.com