No strangers to testing electromagnetic interference on any type of domestic or allied airframe, the 772nd Test Squadron at Edwards specializes in being able determine the electromagnetic compatibility of an airplane’s systems one test at a time with the help of the largest anechoic chamber in the world known as the Benefield Anechoic Facility.
As of June 8, the 772nd TS, along with the help of multiple organizations, ventured out for the first time to complete a series of tests on multiple systems simultaneously on an F-16 that carries an Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite, which is an integrated radar warning and jamming countermeasure system.
“Unlike other tests, we’re touching on all our major test capabilities with this particular test. We’re really utilizing the system that we have here to perform good system integration on this particular F-16 and I think it’s going to result in a better integrated system than what you may have if you were to put a pod on an F-16 and perform specific pod testing,” said Maj. Corey Beaverson, 772nd TS director of operations.
With the test spanning the length of six weeks, Beaverson said the biggest challenge was being able to incorporate all the test points within the limited time frame.
Aside from testing antenna patterns on the F-16, Beaverson said that they tested system inoperability between the fire control radar and the AIDEWS jamming pod , along with Radar Warning Receiver testing, which gives a pilot situational awareness by allowing them to detect, identify and track threats.
“In addition to this, we performed system interoperability with the countermeasures, so the airplane can see a threat and determine what it is going to do. We also conducted antenna isolation tests, which ensures that there is no transmission interference,” added Beaverson. “Anyone of those things could and often does equate to an entire test here. The fact that we’ve done all of those things together in a test is really the unique thing about this particular customer in this test program.”
According to the BAF test team, all of the data collection efforts were successful due largely in part to a combined effort that involved an extensive team.
“We had a lot of people at the facility, which involved JT3 contractors, government civilians, Lockheed Martin contractors, the 416 Flight Test Squadron Global Power – Fighters Combined Test Force, Georgia Tech Research Institute, and ITT Exelis,” said David Krohman, 772nd TS director. “There were a lot of interested parties here at the same time looking at different things in order to make an integrated product and this is probably the one facility, if not the only, that allowed us to do that.”
Before the team could commence the six weeks of execution testing with the aircraft in the chamber, Debra Reyes, 412th Test Wing project manager, said they had to spend approximately three months of extensive planning with the customers.
“Yes, we executed tests here in the chamber for six weeks, but there’s quite a bit of time that leads up to it,” said Beaverson. “It’s more than just planning, there’s preparing test equipment, setting the equipment up in the chamber, understanding what that equipment does to the environment in the chamber so you can understand how that influences the data you’re about to collect, making sure everything is calibrated, programming all the threats necessary for the test. All that time devoted to those specific areas was a testament to how successful this test was.”
After nearing the final week of testing, the team’s efforts resulted in the customer collecting more than 200 hours’ worth of data, according to Krohman.
“In terms of realizing how much data was collected. If you look at a normal two-hour flight test sortie, that equates to about one hundred flights worth of information. To generate those sorties and get that amount of information, that, in itself, would take a long time,” added Krohman. “In addition to that, you wouldn’t have that much control of the environment in order to make changes on the fly, but with the facility we have here, it’s not only set up to just come in once, but as you learn more, you make changes and make that product better in the end.”