Magazine article National Defense

Joint Srtike Fighter Teams Focus on Concepts, Costs

Magazine article National Defense

Joint Srtike Fighter Teams Focus on Concepts, Costs

Article excerpt

The two industry teams competing for the world's largest military aircraft development and production contract have begun to test their flight concepts and demonstrate critical technologies while keeping an eye on affordability.

The joint strike fighter is a tri-service program along with the British Royal Navy to produce highly common variants of the same core airframe design. The Pentagon hopes that a single production line, with similar parts and configuration, will help keep costs low, a key concern for a plane counted on to replace the military's fleet of attack aircraft.

The four-year concept demonstration phase calls for the teams to build and flighttest two planes. One aircraft will demonstrate the Air Force conventional takeoff and landing and the Navy's carrier-based variants. For the Marine Corps and United Kingdom requirements, a second plane will fly as a short takeoff and vertical landing version (STOVL).

The McDonnell Douglas-British Aerospace team that lost out in last year's downselect has gone its separate ways and joined the two remaining competing teams. McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis, merged with Seattle-based Boeing. British Aerospace has partnered with Lockheed Martin, Fort Worth, Texas, whose teaming arrangement with Northrop Grumman, Los Angeles, preceded and is separate from the firms' pending merger.

Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been working with the 3M company, Washington, D.C., to conduct flight tests of paintless aircraft technology that could provide a savings in production costs, support requirements, and aircraft weight. During the life of a fighter plane, repainting procedures may add as much as 800 pounds of accumulated paint, a Boeing spokesman said.

Not painting fleets of planes would also prevent the military from harming the environment, since the practice is a major source of damaging emissions, wastewater generation and hazardous waste disposal. Up to 90 percent of all hazardous materials associated with aircraft stem from the painting, stripping and repainting operations, he said.

Instead of paint, planes would be coated with thin polymer films backed by pressure-sensitive adhesives known as appliques. The new technology would likely be applied first to the next generation of commercial and military aircraft that includes the joint strike fighter. …

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