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Alternate history: Boeing won JSF

helmutkohl

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Boeing and Lockheed beat out McDs, GD, and some other companies to become the two finalists for JSF.

Boeing went with a somewhat more conventional engine arrangement, but an unconventional shape
Lockheed was opposite and chose a more novel engine arrangement, but had a shape more similar to the F-22

In the end the Lockheed version was chosen.

However in this alternate history, the Boeing design was chosen.
With Boeing winning the JSF competition, how different do you think the following would be

  1. Development into a production version. the X-35 took some time to mature into the F-35, and even as the F-35 people are still critical of it today. Would the X-35 be better or worse? One thing known is that the X-35 would have changed to a new design towards a conventional delta and tail over the all delta version. Although supposedly the delta wing was quite advance
  2. Influence on other designs. the F-35 really popularized the DSI inlet and helped cement the basic F-22 shape as the "standard" for 5th gen aircraft. But would this change had the Boeing design won? Would the Korean and Chinese planes look the way they do today or would they end up being more similar to the X-32?
  3. Would it affect exports or would the market be roughly the same?
  4. How would it affect other procurement? Would the F-22 keep going on in order to keep Lockheed busy with orders? the US is often about balancing its major aviation companies, Boeing, Lockmart, and NG. would a Boeing win influence the trainer decision for example?

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SteveO

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I always wanted the F-32 to win and in my ideal fantasy world the F-32 would have been cheaper through increased commonality between the 3 variants. The STOVL variant would have kept the 2000 pound bomb bay capability due to the chunkier design having more internal volume. I also like to think that although the direct lift system wasn't as capable as the F-35 lift fan it would have been more than adequate for STOVL carrier operations and good for STOL on land (and cheaper too!). Maybe the simpler lines of the F-32 would have been a benefit when it came to low observable maintenance?

Reality is a let down ;)
 
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Richard N

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Considering the major malfunctions Boeing has had since they were defeated in the JSF Competition, I do not see how they could possibly have made a success of the X-32. Their three most public failures being the 737 Max, KC-767, and Starliner along with the CEO leaving under the 737 Max cloud. Terrible examples of "Wrong Stuff".
 

Archibald

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Perhaps the early variant that had a lift-fan like the F-35 but driven by the engine hot gases, rather than a shaft. Ryan XV-5A rather than F-35, kind of. But they failed to make it work.

The later variant that lost had lift jets and was hopeless (from memory).
 

Richard N

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Something I heard discussed about the F-35's fan drive shaft is that it could be used to run a generator to make large quantities of electric power for future weapons.
 

Archibald

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I remember that, too - there were talks about lasers.
 

Colonial-Marine

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Perhaps the early variant that had a lift-fan like the F-35 but driven by the engine hot gases, rather than a shaft. Ryan XV-5A rather than F-35, kind of. But they failed to make it work.

The later variant that lost had lift jets and was hopeless (from memory).
Why do you say it was hopeless? Supposedly the lift jet solution wasn't exactly popular, probably due to the heat concerns, but I don't see why it couldn't work. The rest of the design looked promising, at least from the outside. McDonnell Douglas may not have been in their prime anymore but Northrop was on the team and certainly had a good understanding of low RCS design.

I'd have to go with the theory that Boeing was selected as the "low risk" STOVL method as it essientally functioned the same as the Harrier did. Of course the Harrier was much lighter and less capable. In retrospect it might seem that they were trying to achieve too much with that method.
 

Richard N

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The lift jet solution was not popular because it couldn't do the job! The X-32B's VTOL performance was so marginal that it couldn't perform at Edward's hot and high location so they had to take it across the country to PAX River at sea level to have dense enough air for the engine to have enough performance to lift the B with many parts stripped off to save enough weight just to get off the ground vertically. The Boeing team had people with the most VTOL jet experience in the world and wound up with an airplane that could only VTOL at sea level with parts missing. That is an indication that lift jet had reached the peak of its evolution.

It was an advantage for LM to have started with a clean sheet that made them look at the problems of lift jet and solve those along with looking at new ways to increase VTOL performance beyond what the Harrier had done. LM's lift fan innovation improved VTOL performance by greatly increasing and cooling the air mass directed at the ground. A side benefit of the column of air drawn into the lift fan was a ram air effect into the auxiliary air intakes that increased engine performance during VTOL. This air was cool and free of exhaust gas recirculation that is a known problem of Harriers.

The X-35B with its lift fan went on to do the first VTOL supersonic flight. The X-32B could barely get off the ground.
 

Mike OTDP

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I know that some of the people involved were convinced that the Boeing design was, in fact, superior. I don't have a dog in that fight. WRT the sensor problems, both companies went with the same radar/sensor vendors...Northrop-Grumman. A company that has a very long track record of software issues.

The real joker in the deck would have been separating out the USAF, USMC/UK, and Navy airframes into entirely separate programs. Common powerplant and avionics. Which in a modern tactical jet are around 75% of the total cost, possibly more. This isn't 1950, the airframe is almost trivial compared to the total program.

Now, as to the ripple effect...whoever won JSF was likely to be out of the running for a lot of other contracts. I could easily see Lockheed getting another 80-160 F-22s as a consolation prize, followed by a much better shot at the USAF trainer contract. And they would have a lock on the P-3 replacement program.
 

helmutkohl

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I know that some of the people involved were convinced that the Boeing design was, in fact, superior. I don't have a dog in that fight. WRT the sensor problems, both companies went with the same radar/sensor vendors...Northrop-Grumman. A company that has a very long track record of software issues.

The real joker in the deck would have been separating out the USAF, USMC/UK, and Navy airframes into entirely separate programs. Common powerplant and avionics. Which in a modern tactical jet are around 75% of the total cost, possibly more. This isn't 1950, the airframe is almost trivial compared to the total program.

Now, as to the ripple effect...whoever won JSF was likely to be out of the running for a lot of other contracts. I could easily see Lockheed getting another 80-160 F-22s as a consolation prize, followed by a much better shot at the USAF trainer contract. And they would have a lock on the P-3 replacement program.
Yeah I wonder if the Navy, marines and USAF could choose separately.. would they all choose the X-35? or would they choose differently?

in the last competition, the USAF chose the YF-16 which became the F-16. the Navy ended up choosing the loser, the YF-17 and modified it into the F-18.

At the same time, I've also read that it was the Navy, whose last minute requirement changes, is what screwed over the Boeing X-32 entry.
the Navy wanted more agility and a lighter air frame at the last minute. So Boeing had to change their design from a pure delta to a delta-tail configuration, which made it lighter and more agile. But the contest did not allow Boeing enough time to finish that design.

I wonder if the delta-tail design would have addressed the vtol concerns that Richard pointed out earlier
 

Mike OTDP

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At the same time, I've also read that it was the Navy, whose last minute requirement changes, is what screwed over the Boeing X-32 entry.
the Navy wanted more agility and a lighter air frame at the last minute. So Boeing had to change their design from a pure delta to a delta-tail configuration, which made it lighter and more agile. But the contest did not allow Boeing enough time to finish that design.
You have to remember that the three services had very different needs. The USAF wanted an F-16 sprinkled with Tarnhelm filings, to make it stealthy. The USMC wanted an F-18 sprinkled with pixie dust, to make it STOVL. The Navy wanted a high-end strike fighter...but was told to shut up and take whatever the Air Force and Marines came up with.
 

gtg947h

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The lift jet solution was not popular because it couldn't do the job! The X-32B's VTOL performance was so marginal that it couldn't perform at Edward's hot and high location so they had to take it across the country to PAX River at sea level to have dense enough air for the engine to have enough performance to lift the B with many parts stripped off to save enough weight just to get off the ground vertically.
I think the “lift jet” being referred to earlier was another proposal (McDD?) that actually had a Soviet-style lift jet (a small separate engine in about the same place as the F-35 lift fan). I think that one lost out due to temperature concerns or something.

But I’d agree, the X-32 was doomed by its STOVL performance. The lift fan was a high risk/high reward calculated gamble by Lockheed, and it paid off.


Ah, found a reference: https://www.flightglobal.com/mdc-to-pick-jast-lift-engine/15444.article
 

Archibald

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I think the “lift jet” being referred to earlier was another proposal (McDD?) that actually had a Soviet-style lift jet (a small separate engine in about the same place as the F-35 lift fan). I think that one lost out due to temperature concerns or something.

Yes, my point exactly. There were three JSF proposals: the Lockheed one that won, the ugly Boeing that reached prototype level, and a third one by MDD-BAe that was killed at paper level.

That last one started with a lift-fan like the F-35, except driven by engine hot gases (XV-5A style) rather than Bevilacqua smart trick of a shaft.

Could have been an interesting alternative to the F-35 being rather similar and unlike the Boeing one, a clean break from the Harrier.

Alas, MDD was unable to make this system work and they replaced their fan with a Yak freestyle pair of lift jets. In turn, this set the project back by 20 years, to Convair 200 and this was unacceptable to JSF, and thus MDD was kicked out.
 

uk 75

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It is interesting that the UK spent a long time in the 70s trying to combine its Jaguar and Harrier replacement aircraft into one design.
Eventually we gave up and the long path to the CTOL Typhoon began.
I wonder what would have happened if the USAF and USN had insisted on a CTOL only design and told the Marines to buy it to replace their F18s and quietly walk away from.VSTOL.
I suspect the result would have been a world beater like the F4.
 

Archibald

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There are many interesting "branchings" past 1969 and Harrier Mk.1 IOC with the RAF.
- Convair 200 in place of Rockwell XFV-12 circa 1972
- AV-16, same time, same place, 1972 or later, it died only circa 1975
- Big Wing Harrier / Sea Harrier and no AV-8B (1975-1977)
- Hawker P.1216 for DARPA ASTOVL circa 1983 (and no F-35 down the road)
 

red admiral

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LM played a blinder on X-35 by making a subscale aeroplane without things like weapon bays, and putting a full scale engine in it. No wonder it's STOVL performance was good.

This doesn't mean that X-32 was a better answer though.

Or that Shaft Driven Lift Fan is the best answer. The best answer depends on the requirements set. By having limited kinematic performance requirements lift fan is a better answer than direct lift, but if these requirements were higher then direct lift would be competitive, as it is the higher fall out kinematic performance doesn't earn any benefit.

Still, it's pretty unclear that you can get a good configuration design with direct lift, fully convoluted intakes, and large internal weapon bays. Everything is a trade off.
 

BLACK_MAMBA

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The lift jet solution was not popular because it couldn't do the job! The X-32B's VTOL performance was so marginal that it couldn't perform at Edward's hot and high location so they had to take it across the country to PAX River at sea level to have dense enough air for the engine to have enough performance to lift the B with many parts stripped off to save enough weight just to get off the ground vertically. The Boeing team had people with the most VTOL jet experience in the world and wound up with an airplane that could only VTOL at sea level with parts missing. That is an indication that lift jet had reached the peak of its evolution.

It was an advantage for LM to have started with a clean sheet that made them look at the problems of lift jet and solve those along with looking at new ways to increase VTOL performance beyond what the Harrier had done. LM's lift fan innovation improved VTOL performance by greatly increasing and cooling the air mass directed at the ground. A side benefit of the column of air drawn into the lift fan was a ram air effect into the auxiliary air intakes that increased engine performance during VTOL. This air was cool and free of exhaust gas recirculation that is a known problem of Harriers.

The X-35B with its lift fan went on to do the first VTOL supersonic flight. The X-32B could barely get off the ground.
Others have already mentioned the intended production design from Boeing was going to have a lighter structure than the prototype. It should also be mentioned Boeing gambled on an advanced material (the name of which I can't recall) to build the wing essentially with a single skin. This failed so they had to make use of more conventional but heavier methods.

A lot of things went against Boeing at a very late stage in prototype maturity. Maybe that just indicates how far they were pushing their direct lift concept with only a small performance margin? Regardless I do believe they were not idiots and would not have persued the concept they did if they didn't believe it could work.
 
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