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4.3 out of 5 stars
NOVA: Battle of the X-Planes
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2003
No it wasn't the Discovery Channel, Discovery Wings or even the History Channel that scooped this incredible story. NOVA did it with unpresedented access to the twin giants of aircraft manufacturing Boeing and Lockheed. I have waited since 1999 to see an indepth film about the State-of-the-Art military fighter aircraft buisness. NOVA takes the viewer deep inside the ultra top-secret Lockheed Skunk Works and the Boeing Phantom Works design and manufacturing centers. We have a ring-side seat at every step of the developmental process of the Joint Strike Fighter. The only story that is missing in this otherwise supurb DVD, is the extreamly intense intersevice and political battle BEHIND the scenes that is as fascinating and deadly as any air battle in the skies. Not ALL of the military services even wanted the JSF. It was practically crammed down the throats of the Navy for example because they did not want a single engined fighter. The Air Force greatly resented the entire concept of a multiple user "Joint" anything. The Marines were thrilled that they were not being given another hand-me-down aircraft. So in the end it all came down to dollars, common sense, and an extraordinary "one size fits all" fighter. The JSF will be the ultimate and perhaps last manned fighter plane built by the USA, the next generation of fighters will be UNMANNED Air Combat Vehicles or UCAVS.........but that's another story.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2003
I've seen this three times and never cease to be amazed at the technology involved in the world of fighter planes. Although I do wonder how long it will really last as a fighter plane as it seems we are moving into the world of UCAV's (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles). Do we really need pilots to be in the line of fire? Either way it was awe inspiring seeing the Boeing proto-type hovering a couple hundred feet above the ground in Maryland and doing a full 360 degree turn in midair. Taking off vertically, landing vertically, manuvering faster than any other fighter/bomber ever built, stealth, super-sonic flight speeds... Both Lockheed and Boeing run the gammut and turn out excellent aircraft. It's a very interesting two hours watching this film. You won't be disappointed
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2003
I watched this when it originally aired on PBS, and was amazed at how quickly the story pulled me in. I'm probably a 4 out of 10 on the techno-geek scale only because I read and enjoy Tom Clancy and Dale Brown novels, but I found the story engaging and compelling. I would recommend it anyone, techno-geek or not, simply because the competition between the two manufacturers, and the evolution of the two planes was so interesting. I plan on purchasing this so I can watch it over again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2013
This video documents the competition between the Lockheed X-35 and the Boeing X-32 for the Joint Strike Fighter contract.

If you're not content streaming video and want your JSF footage on DVD, then this Nova special is the only game in town. It does a fairly good job of presenting the basic history of the two companies involved, the origins of the JSF requirement, and the progress of the design and flight competition leading up to the final decision in favor of the Lockheed aircraft.

Viewers new to the history of aviation will probably miss the significance of a few things mentioned in the video. For instance, it is stated that "the JSF is meant to replace the USAF F-16, the Navy F-18, and the USMC Harrier." This is true, but what these legacy aircraft actually do is not presented in detail. For example, the F-16 is a fighter that often doubles as an attack jet, but the F-18 is a purpose-built dual-role aircraft. It isn't explained that a naval jet needs a tailhook and a beefier structure to absorb the punishment of arrested carrier landings, and more wing area (things the USAF version can do without).

Also mentioned is that the DoD tried in the 1960's to force the Navy and the USAF to use a common design in the TFX project, and that it was a failure that resulted in the two services each developing their own separate aircraft projects (the Navy F-14 Tomcat and the USAF F-15 Eagle). Again, however, no details are presented as to why and how the TFX project failed (which basically comes down to weight and money).

It is now some 14 years since this Nova special first aired and still the F-35 has not reached operational status. The original total cost of the program was to have been some $200 billion for some 2700+ aircraft. The latest figures (from Reuters) indicate that 2443 examples will now cost $397 billion to build and some $1500 billion in total operating costs over a projected 50 year service life. One thing this Nova documentary makes clear is that when the US government chose the Lockheed design over the Boeing, they were fully aware that they were choosing the more expensive design.

The video ends with a successful demonstration flight of the USMC version which makes a short rolling TO, achieves supersonic speed, and then recovers vertically. This is touted as a historical first. There are a couple of problems with this. 1) the late-Soviet era Yak-141 did this some twenty years ago. Also not mentioned is that the design for the F-35's exhaust nozzle with vertical vectoring capability was actully that of the Yak-141 purchased from the Russians! So much for American technological superiority. 2) Lockheed is experiencing severe difficulties with the production version of this engine/exhaust arrangement, and the delays caused by the USMC vertical lift version are driving up the total program cost well beyond original projections. According to my latest reading, the USAF version of the F-35 will cost approximately $80 million per copy, the USN version will cost approximately $90 each, and the USMC version will run about $110 million each.

As noted by other reviewers here, the coverage of each prototype's development is somewhat lacking in detail. The people interviewed at each company are the managers and the executives, not the engineers, designers, and technicians who know most about the project. Still, the video is worth watching if only for its video footage of the aircraft.
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VINE VOICEon December 19, 2010
When two of the world's premier aircraft manufacturers faced off in challenge to build the next Joint Strike Fighter, Nova was given unprecedented access to both facilities - this documentary is the amazing result. Showing appropriate and unbiased respect for both teams, the producers provided relevant historical background on both Boeing and Lockheed's aircraft, design strengths and challenges.

From the concept designs through production, testing and the final results, Nova teams chronicle the trials, tribulations and triumphs of each side as they struggle to meet the continuously upgraded demands of Army, Navy and Marine Corp representatives and avoid the pitfalls the have crippled previous generations of aircraft.

From start to finish, producers kept a good pace and brought the thrill and high energy drama of the aviation world through the screen to viewers at home. If you or your children are at all interested in planes, mechanics, engineering or design this is a must see!
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on January 24, 2010
Excellent coverage on the Lockheed and Boeing fighters during construction and flight testing for the eventual JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) for the U.S. Military. Only one fighter would eventually be selected. Highly recommended for anyone interested in military aircraft.
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on January 1, 2008
The photography quality was breath-taking, the action spectacular. I never tire of watching the development of aeronautics. It re-awakened the memory of what I had viewed previously and explained the pros and cons of the various aircraft designs.
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on February 9, 2009
I have a love for planes that goes back to when I was a kid, age now 69. Have followed info on the F-22 Raptor. Watched this video on HULU, had to have it for my video collection. Loved it, definately a video to own if your into aircraft.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2011
Nova did a decent job presenting the JSF competition Boeing was involved in. If you work in aerospace you may be disappointed in the lack of technical details and if you were/are involved with either aircraft you may be disappointed in the "consumer grade" presentation and quality of the information. Though there were some good aspects to the DVD it lost credibility for me with innuendos toward Lockheed to the point of calling them arrogant. Perhaps someone at Lockheed may have irritated the producers but shows that even Nova can put the media "spin" on what they want and will necessitate future viewing of their other products with uncertainty.
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on May 21, 2007
By far the BEST DVD of the Joint Strike Fighters on the market! AWESOME!!!!
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