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Boeing X-32: The Unconventional Stealth Fighter That Turned Heads

The F-35 Lightning II is slowly becoming a central part of the U.S. military and its allies. However, before the F-35 went into production, it had to compete with the Boeing X-32. The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) competition was spearheaded by the U.S. in the 1990s, which marked a significant change in the organization of U.S. air power from previous decades.

In the past, airframes were designed for a specific purpose, such as close air support or air superiority. This approach was expensive, complicated, and difficult to manage. The JSF competition aimed to find a jet that could perform multiple tasks, streamlining procurement, training, and maintenance. The JSF was also intended to simplify the force structure of the U.S. allies, with the same jet being used by countries such as the UK, Italy, Canada, and Australia.

The JSF received four proposals, and two were chosen for prototype testing. The winner of the contract was the F-35’s predecessor, the Lockheed X-35, while the loser was the Boeing X-32. Boeing emphasized the X-32’s low manufacturing and lifecycle costs, but its flight tests were not as smooth as the X-35’s. The X-32 had an unusual appearance, with an angular engine intake and a bloated fuselage.

The X-32 was not produced, and only two were ever built, one of which is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and the other at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum.

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