Sitting in a junk filled corner of Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas, is a corroding aircraft that formed the basis of Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter design. At first glance, the plane resembles an F-35 Lightning II, but is actually a large scale powered model built by Lockheed to meet DARPA requirements for an Advanced Short Takeoff Vertical Landing (ASTOVL) and Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) aircraft.
The stealthy canard design, developed in the early 1990s, adopted a revolutionary lift fan to achieve short takeoff and vertical landing, helping cement Lockheed’s success in the later Joint Strike Fighter programme against Boeing’s X-32. At this stage of the programme, renamed Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) by 1995, competing designs were also submitted by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing.
While the ASTOVL/CALF/JAST design was not a flyable aircraft, it was also not a traditional full size replica. As a large scale powered model, the stealthy demonstrator was used in a series of ground-based tests, many focusing on the lift fan system. Despite an obvious resemblance, the final X-35 and F-35 designs differ significantly from CALF. The powered model, similar in size to the F-16 alongside it, looks like a gutted shell in these recent Google Earth images. Nearby is a mock-up of the ill-fated A-12 Avenger II attack aircraft, designed for the Navy, and cancelled in 1993 amid ongoing legal difficulties.