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F-35 Lightning II News

Flights test electro-optical sensors for F-35 JSF

March 3, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter team successfully launched the first phase of the F-35 Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (EO DAS) early risk-reduction flight-test program, with recently conducted flights near Patuxent River Naval Air Warfare Center in Maryland.
The next-generation EO DAS, developed by a Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems-led team, provides the F-35 with key capabilities that include missile warning; navigation forward-looking infrared (FLIR), which provides imagery to the pilot's helmet-mounted display day or night; and infrared search and track (IRST) capability. DAS sensors also will be flown in a centerline pod on an F-16 to record data in a dynamic fighter environment. On production F-35s, the DAS sensor array will be flush-mounted at various points along the fuselage.

"The DAS system holds the promise of greatly enhancing the combat effectiveness of the F-35, and I am excited to see it beginning to enter flight test," said F-35 Chief Test Pilot Jon Beesley. "Timely detection of threats such as air-to-air missiles by DAS sensors plays a key role in the survivability of the F-35. High-resolution images from the multiple DAS sensors will provide a 360-degree spherical view around and through the aircraft, dramatically increasing the pilot's situational awareness for combat and for STOVL operations."

The objective of the tests is to reduce development risk of the F-35's DAS program by recording data from multiple DAS sensors in flight conditions. The recorded data is then replayed on the ground to evaluate imaging and target-detection algorithms in various electro-optical environmental conditions.

The flight-test program uses a Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems BAC1-11 flying test bed and captures data using prototype versions of the F-35 DAS sensors. Tests include capturing infrared images of cooperative and non-cooperative airborne and ground-based targets in EO environments.

"The EO DAS system is one of several transformational capabilities that are enabling the development of new combat tactics for the F-35," said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 JSF program general manager. "We're currently collecting data from two of the EO DAS sensors together on the BAC 1-11 flights, which provide real flight information to use in developing and optimizing the algorithms for the multifunction EO DAS system. A third sensor will be added later in the flight-test program."