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Full-scale F-35 pole model begins mission systems testing

November 12, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Multi-phase Mission Systems aperture testing is under way on a full-scale model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at the Air Force Research Laboratories' Newport, N.Y., test facility.
The model, manufactured by Advanced Technologies, Inc., of Newport News, Va., is being used to measure installed antenna pattern, gain and phase measurements for the F-35's Communication, Navigation & Identification (CNI) and Electronic Warfare (EW) systems.

The aperture test program, a major Mission Systems development milestone, began on Oct. 1 with testing of the CNI system's upper L-Band antennas from Ball Aerospace. Early test results show the pre-production apertures meet or exceed pattern and gain requirements while installed in the F-35 model. Additional tests are evaluating the performance of the CNI system's Satellite Communications, Global Positioning System and UHF/VHF communications apertures. EW aperture testing will begin in 2005.

"The beginning of aperture testing in this world-class test facility is a significant achievement in the F-35 JSF program," said Bob Elrod, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 JSF program general manager. "This is a key milestone on the way to our first flight date in 2006."

Future test phases will validate CNI and EW production-antenna performance in a "clean" aircraft configuration (no external stores, landing gear up, doors closed). Later tests will also evaluate the impacts of various external weapons configurations on aperture performance. The installed-antenna data will be used for design validation, performance verification, risk reduction, improved system performance modeling and simulation, and reduction of the number of F-35 flight-test points required to verify avionics performance. The F-35 model will also be used to measure antenna-to-antenna isolation measurements to support F-35 radio frequency (RF) compatibility verification. The model weighs 8,500 pounds and was produced over a 44-week period. With interchangeable wing and tail components, it has the capability to simulate all three F-35 variants.

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