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The X-35B Joint Strike Fighter and We Came Very Close

The X-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the ancestor of the F-35 stealth fighter, at a distance of just a few feet.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has established itself as the most cutting-edge and effective combat aircraft worldwide. It was created to take the place of the A-10 and F-16 of the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier of the US Marine Corps, and the F/A-18 of the U.S. Navy.

The single-engine, one-seat aircraft is distinctive in that the Air Force’s F-35A variant can do conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) while creating the Navy’s F-35C version to operate from an aircraft carrier (CV). The F-35B, which can function as a short-takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) fighter, is used by the United States Marine Corps, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom. The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation multirole combat aircraft with better agility, maneuverability, sensor and information fusion, network-enabled operations, and sustainment. It also has advanced stealth capabilities.

It all started with the X-35: we got so close to it that we almost touched it.

The Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum annex at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport houses exhibits on the development of the F-35 and the experimental program that preceded the Joint Strike Fighter, which has become “virtually legendary in aviation history.” took the following photographs and video while we were there this past weekend to give you an idea of what the X-35 is really like.

The X-35 had defeated the Boeing X-32 competitor, and a developed, armed version of the X-35 later went into production as the F-35 Lightning II. The Smithsonian Museum “leaped at the chance” to purchase one of the X-planes used for flight testing in September 2003. The first X-35B, a short-takeoff and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant of the X-35A, is currently housed in the vast facility.

The X-35B demonstrator had a unique shaft-driven lift fan that increased engine thrust and decreased exhaust temperature and velocity during vertical flight operations. It was meant to suit the U.S. Marine Corps specifications, the British Royal Air Force, and Royal Navy. It allowed the plane to land vertically and took off from a tiny aircraft carrier or short runway. In addition, one of the enormous lift-fan propulsion systems is on exhibit at the Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center next to the X-35B.

It was initially developed as the X-35A demonstrator and altered to add the lift-fan engine to test the STOVL concept. In one flight, the aircraft set several test records, including the first-ever vertical landing, short takeoff, and level supersonic dash. The shaft-driven lift-fan propulsion technology it used to fly made it the first airplane to do so.

The X-35B flight test program was one of the quickest and most successful ever from 23 June to 6 August 2001. The X-35B successfully conducted 27 vertical landings, 14 short takeoffs, and 18 vertical takeoffs. It was piloted by four pilots from the U.S. and the U.K., five times broke the sound barrier and received five aerial refuelings during its flight test program.

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