X-32’s Makeover: Before And After

The only X-32A in existence just got a major restoration ahead of being displayed at the National Museum of the USAF.

byTyler Rogoway|
X-32 National Museum Of The United States Air Force
U.S. Air Force photo by Ben Strasser/Ken LaRock
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The National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) has just completed its full restoration of the Boeing X-32A, the loser to Lockheed's X-35 in the Joint Strike Fighter competition nearly two and a half decades ago. The transformation from beaten-up relic — which is already regularly derided as one of the ugliest fighters ever flown — to gleaming showpiece is incredible.

The museum took custody of the X-32A, the only one on Earth, back in 2005. The jet, which flew 66 times during testing, had sat outside for years before being stored inside and eventually put through the facility's restoration program starting late last Summer. The work took around three months to complete and it's stunning what the NMUSAF crew was able to achieve in that short time frame. The X-32A now looks better than it ever did.

Let's take a look at the before and after (all photos credited to the NMUSAF).

Before:

After:

It is a splendid transformation for one of the most interesting and misunderstood aircraft around.

There is no doubt about it, the X-32 is one bizarre looking bird, with it's 'pregnant' belly and big under-bite chin. But the production version would have looked markedly different, and much more like a fighter. You can see exactly what an 'F-32' would have looked like and what its intended capabilities would have been with those drastic revisions by checking out our past feature here. You can also read about why it lost from the viewpoint of one of its test pilots here.

One of the many renderings from our exclusive article showing what the production F-32 would have looked with the help of our master artist friend Adam Burch of hangar-b.com.

Regardless of what could have been, the X-32's homely appearance remains the butt of many jokes to this very day.

The X-32A's brother, the short-takeoff and vertical landing X-32B variant, which flew 79 times, is the only other example of the type to ever exist. That aircraft is on display outside at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland. It has seen better days.

X-32B baking in the sun out at NAS Patuxent River's naval history museum. UnaDriver via Wikicommons

The Air Force's premier aviation museum has been on a restoration roll as of late, with the acquisition and rapid restoration of an SU-27UB with a very shadowy past also occurring recently.

If you want to go see the renewed X-32A for yourself, it should be on display soon at the NMUSAF's sprawling facility at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, and you can guarantee that, no matter what, it will look very surprised to see you!

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

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