Rolls helps Boeing fighter pass flight tests

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The Independent Online

Rolls-Royce technology has helped Boeing complete all flight tests on its contender for the $400bn (£286bn) Joint Strike Fighter programme in record time.

Flight tests have proven that Boeing's demonstrator aircraft, the X-32B, meets the US and UK requirement for a Harrier-style short takeoff and vertical landing (STVOL) version of the JSF. The tests were conducted at the Patuxent naval air station in southern Maryland. Rolls has pioneered the new direct-lift system that redirects the aircraft's engine thrust, enabling the JSF to go from conventional to vertical flight with the press of a button. Boeing is in competition with Lockheed Martin for the JSF, the biggest military procurement programme in history.

Although there have been question marks over whether the Bush administration will approve funding for the huge programme, senior Boeing executives are confident it will go ahead. The winning bidder is to be selected in early October.

Apart from Rolls, other leading UK aerospace companies are involved in the Boeing bid, including BAE Systems, Smiths and Messier-Dowty. If Boeing wins, about 10 per cent of the JSF will be built in the UK. Whichever contractor is selected, the work will probably end up shared because of the sheer scale of the programme and the need to maintain competition on future military programmes.

The US needs 3,000 aircraft to replace F16 and F18 fighters and the US Marine version of the Harrier, the AV8B. Britain plans to order 150 STOVLs to replace Harriers and Sea Harriers.

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