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CROSS-COUNTRY FLIGHT FIRST FOR JET EDWARDS-TO-MARYLAND TRIP MILESTONE FOR NEW JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER PROJECT.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - The multiservice joint strike fighter program reached a milestone with a cross-country flight of Lockheed Martin's X-35C airplane from Edwards Air Force Base to the Navy flight test center in Maryland.

The X-35C will be tested at the Navy's flight test center in Patuxent River, Md., for the next four to six weeks. The airplane left Edwards on Friday, made a stop at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, Texas, plant, and then arrived Saturday in Maryland.

The aircraft has already made more than 45 simulated aircraft carrier approaches at Edwards using a marked-off section of the base's main runway.

``There is some difference in performance at sea level compared to the high desert - and we wanted to get the airplane in the hands of the customers,'' said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and JSF general manager, in a telephone news conference.

The joint strike fighter is being developed to replace the Air Force's aging F-16s and A-10s and the Marine Corps' AV-8B Harrier and to augment the Navy's F-18s. The United Kingdom, a partner in the program, is looking to use the plane to replace its Sea Harrier and GR-7 jets.

Lockheed Martin is competing with Boeing for the contract to produce the aircraft. The U.S. and United Kingdom military services are looking to buy more than 3,000 of the aircraft.

Although there has been speculation that the Bush administration might cut the program, Burbage said he believes it will survive because the military is facing a real need to replace aging aircraft and because there is a need to dramatically lower the cost of maintaining aircraft.

``Unless the national strategy changes dramatically, the requirements won't dramatically,'' Burbage said. ``I think the need for JSF is real and valid.''

Lockheed Martin's X-35B aircraft, which will be used to test technologies for the Marine Corps, is going through ground testing and will fly in the summer. The B was modified from the X-35A, used for testing Air Force requirements, but fitted with a shaft-driven lift fan for hovering.

The X-35B will conduct its flight tests at Edwards. Lockheed Martin is looking at the possibility of flying the aircraft to Maryland for some tests.

The current plan is to bring the X-35C back to Palmdale after the flight testing is completed. However, Lockheed Martin is looking at the possibility of keeping the airplane in Maryland and making it available for future testing.

Boeing has completed its flight tests of the X-32A, an aircraft used to test technologies for the Air Force and Navy variants. The aircraft is now in storage at Palmdale.

The X-32B, which will test technologies for the Marine Corps, is in the final stages of preparation to begin its flight test program.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 13, 2001
Words:465
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