August 10, 2006 (by SrA Samuel King Jr.) - Four wings are combining efforts to analyze, develop and test a new advanced medium-range air-to-air missile data collection system for the first F-22A Raptor at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor
The 53rd Wing, 46th Test Wing, 1st Fighter Wing and 325th Fighter Wing worked side by side to solve the weapons system evaluation program's critical data collection issue in less than three months.
Early in the F-22 program, engineers were concerned with the transmission of telemetry signals from the advanced medium-range air-to-air missile to the ground receiving site while the missile is still in the bay due to the stealth capabilities of the jet, according to Doug Ayers, the lead Raytheon missile systems engineer for the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group.
Due to the Raptor's internal AIM-120C missile stations, the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron WSEP evaluators were missing critical missile cueing data.
"This data is critical in determining the target location the F-22A sends to the missile during its launch cycle," said Gordon Starr of Raytheon. "Although many options were discussed, none were viable due to the high price tag, so an alternative plan had to be devised."
Originally, the proposed modification plan was to cost $350 million, he said. An alternate plan called for only some of the Raptors to be modified, which meant they could not be tested at WSEP, and the cost was still very high.
In May, members of the 53rd WEG were already brainstorming the problem and possible solutions. After a close-up inspection of an F-22A by Raytheon engineers and viewing in-flight cases housed in the Raptor's external weapons stations, they came up with the idea of modifying the use of 24-by-18-inch cases that typically store spare missile wings and fins.
The engineers took the idea to Al Berard, the chief of Eglin's 46th Test Wing Development Branch.
"Mr. Berard and his team have been modifying jets at Eglin for decades and have years of experience with in-flight telemetry systems," Mr. Starr said.
After hearing what was needed, Mr. Berard and his six-person team put together a working prototype in less than two weeks.
"We had to provide the means of receiving and recording data on the F-22A without installing instrumentation or deriving power from the aircraft," said Mr. Berard.
The flight case was a perfect fit.
Dubbed the "flight case recorder," the battery-powered unit would contain a programmable receiver that adjusted to the frequency and transmission speed of a given missile. The data would record to a compact flash card, most commonly used in digital cameras. The unit fit neatly into the Raptor's in-flight case, keeping it separate from any controls or electronics.
The concept moved to coordination and certification.
"The unit needed to be funded and flight certified; security requirements had to be addressed; software had to be written to read and process the data after it was recorded; and tests had to be developed to verify operation on a jet with multiple missiles and to verify the unit wouldn't affect the Raptor's flight controls," said Jim Moore, 53rd Test Support Squadron technical adviser.
In June, the first testing began with the 43rd Fighter Squadron. Don Linn from the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron Consolidated Munitions Office and his support team prepared the missiles and worked with Raytheon and Mr. Berard to ensure the telemetry signal could be seen and recorded from all four missiles.
After some adjustments, two flight case recorders were tested in July by the 94th FS
during its WSEP. The modified units have now flown seven times on the Raptor and accurately captured data from two AIM-120C missile launches.
"Analysis confirmed that the data captured by the (flight case recorder) is absolutely pristine with no noise or dropouts," said Mr. Starr. "And the FCR is not just limited to the AIM-120
data. It can also collect AIM-9
data and any other data used in the standard telemetry band including bombs."
Based on those tests, the recorders are becoming part of the F-22A inventory. The total cost for this new equipment is a fraction of the initial modification plan.
The commander of the 53rd WEG credits the combined efforts of his group, the 46th Test Wing, 43rd FS, 83rd FS, 94th FS and the F-22 SPO in the successful implementation.
"This is a prime example of how tough problems can be solved quickly by motivated individuals using some 'out of the box' thinking and teamwork," said Col. Mike Winslow.