X-32B joins air museum family



Apr 7, 2005

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NAS Patuxent River Public Affairs

PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION, MD—On a windy, cold day with rain droplets beginning to fall, a devoted group stood outside the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum as the Boeing X-32B Joint Strike Fighter Concept Demonstration Aircraft was inducted to its aircraft display area.

The X-32B joins the Lockheed X-35C previously assigned to the Museum in April 2003. The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum is now the only place in the world where visitors can view and take photos of both JSF contenders.

Speakers at the event lauded the capabilities of the X-32B as top flight.

"It's not the most beautiful thing, but for the people working on it, it was a wonderful beast," said Marine Lt. Col. Jeff Karnes, who piloted the aircraft.

Karnes said that the performance was top notch and that flying the X-32B was "amazing."

"Comparing it to the Harrier, which is what I flew, one of the most difficult things to do is the STOVL [short take off and landing] flight," Karnes said. "The digital flight controls reduced the workload and increased the accuracy of the flight. It made it easy and I appreciate the great performance."

Karnes said that during a vertical landing in the aircraft, he had greater accuracy than ever and was able to come down almost exactly where he wanted.

"There is a lot of stuff in this aircraft that can be used in the future, and that makes it a winner," Karnes said.

Andrew Maack, head of the local Joint Strike Fighter program office, said that the aircraft came to the museum with an excellent fight test track record and a lot of time and effort put in by numerous people.

"It's difficult to look back on the program and express how much excitement there was during development," Maack said. He added that the competition was extremely tight and that the X-32 and the X-35 were testing similar systems and maneuvers at about the same time.

Maack then presented retired Rear Adm. Gus Eggert, president of the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum Association, with the "key" to the X-32B, recognizing all that he and his office invested in the aircraft.

The X-32B and the X-35C are the very beginning of the DoD Joint Strike fighter program and were both used to show the viability of such craft. Both airframes were used to successfully demonstrate that the JSF designs were viable, resulting in the 2001 DoD decision to have Lockheed Martin build the F-35. The story of the two aircraft's development was so dynamic that it was recently featured in a PBS documentary “Battle of the X-Planes,” which can be viewed at the museum.

Boeing built two X-32 aircraft and Lockheed Martin built two X-35 aircraft as part of an earlier contract. The sister ship to the X-35C, known as the X-35B (STOVL variant) is on public display at the new Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located at Dulles Airport in Virginia. The X-32A (USAF/USN Variant) is in storage in California.

The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum was born in the early 1970s and has the mission of preserving the history that has been made here, and is still being made, regarding test and evaluation of cutting-edge Naval aircraft. There are approximately 30 aircraft in the museum's inventory including the famous A-7, AV-8B, A-6, F-4, F-14 and F/A-18 as well as Navy and Marine Corps helicopters.

Admission to the museum is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 301-863-7418 or 301-863-1900, or e-mail to

Karnes joined up with the JSF program in 1996 when it first started up, and flew more than 16 hours in the X-32B testing and evaluating the aircraft.

"It was a great experience to work with the people involved in the program," Karnes said. "It was the highlight of my flying career."

(Joe Dunn contributed to this article.)


Photos: The X-35C and the X-32B at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum.

Photos by Joe Dunn

Patuxent River, MD

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