But it was not to be.
We Can Now Show You What Boeing's F-35 Would Have Looked Like
One of the main reasons why Lockheed Martin’s design was selected over Boeing’s was because the X-32’s direct lift system—which uses engine thrust to lift the aircraft—is prone to pop stalls. That’s a phenomenon where hot exhaust gases are reingested into the engine causing a power loss. There were also questions as to whether the engine would be powerful enough to lift a fully operational F-32—the prototype had to have parts removed to ensure it would fly. It probably didn’t help Boeing’s case that it had to redesign the X-32 to meet the modified JSF requirements. An operational F-32 had a very different configuration from the X-32.
On October 26, 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that Lockheed Martin’s X-35 had won the Joint Strike Fighter contest over Boeing’s X-32.
(This first appeared in late 2015.)
The win secured Lockheed’s future as the manufacturer for all of America’s fifth-generation fighter platforms. But Lockheed’s resultant F-35 has suffered myriad delay, technical glitches, unrecoverable technical shortfalls and massive cost overruns. Already the largest ever defense program with an estimated price tag of $233 billion in 2001 for a total of 2,866 aircraft, the F-35 program is now estimated to cost more than $391 billion for 2,457 jets, according to the Government Accountability Office.