|Role||Proposed Lightweight Fighter|
The X-32 was an experimental aircraft developed to compete for the role of the US military's newest 3rd generation mass-production TSF. Despite having the advantage of more advanced components and greater commonality between the proposed Army and Navy variants, the X-32 lost to the X-35 with higher cost to performance ratio, a less compact airframe, and lower operational stability cited as reasons for the choice. The X-35 would go onto become the F-35 Lightning II once it was accepted for production.
Developed by Boening, the X-32 was intended as a competitor against Lockweed Mardin's X-35 in the contest to decide the US's latest "Lo" lightweight TSF in the Hi-Lo mix concept as part of the Joint Strike Tactical Surface Fighter Program (JSTSF), after the ATSF in 1990 determined the F-22A Raptor would serve as the "Hi" heavy-load TSF. The program was designed to complete the slow phase-out of the F-16 and F-18 combination by creating a low-cost, high agility mass-production type counterpart to the F-22.
In order to reduce development costs, the X-32 and X-35 were designed with the idea of simultaneous development of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps variants sharing a mostly common design. To bankroll the program, the United States convinced the European Union (mainly the United Kingdom's Royal Navy), the African Union, and even the participation of the Eastern Bloc countries in an effort to influence the TSF development of foreign nations.
Desired requirements varied between branches of the military, with the Army requesting a full upgrade from their existing F-16 model and the Navy and Marine Corps requiring a lightweight, compact TSF that could easily be deployed from a warship to replace their aging F-18. The development team also took into consideration foreign variations of the F-16, F-18, and F-5, as well as ensuring the designs encompassed both Human vs. BETA and Human vs. Human tactical doctrines, before starting production of prototypes.
Despite Boening's efforts, the X-32 design was passed over in favor of the X-35.
The X-32 began development in the mid-late 1990's and was tested by DARPA, a branch of the US Department of Defence. Initial flight tests presumably took place in 2000, and by 2001 the X-35 had been selected and renamed to the F-35.
- The real world X-32 and the associated JSF program did not include any former Eastern Bloc or African Union countries in its design and development. Instead, most of the partners were European partners as well as Canada and Australia.