772nd Test Squadron integrates ground-based simulator into Orange Flag Test Event

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The 772nd Test Squadron’s Integrated Facility for Avionics System Test (IFAST) utilizes simulators to provide to the Air Force Test Center a live, virtual, and constructive modeling and simulation system for a flight test environment. (Air Force photograph)

The 772nd Test Squadron’s Integrated Facility for Avionics System Test at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., recently participated in the July 2020 Orange Flag test event.

Orange Flag is a multi-domain test series focused on interoperability and bringing test as close as possible to the warfighter through operationally-relevant testing early in the development cycle.

The IFAST participation aligned with the Air Force Test Center goal of integrating live, virtual, and constructive modeling and simulation systems into the flight test environment. 

“IFAST participation in Orange Flag is a significant step forward for the integration of emerging systems,” said Maj. Brandon Burfeind, the Orange Flag Mission commander. “July 2020 Orange Flag successfully tested kill chains involving air, space, land, and cyber domains.”

The IFAST participated with an F-16 Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL) as a proof of concept for the exercise. To bring non-flying test assets into integrated test environments earlier in the development cycle, the IFAST can use operational, developmental, or technology demonstration sensors or systems in a laboratory environment with access to the open air and connectivity to the open-air environment through advanced datalinks.   

“The IFAST team was able to connect to the Orange Flag Link 16 network and transmit a radar track to other airborne players. The F-16 radar mounted on the IFAST building locked onto a real flying aircraft in the exercise and transmitted the track over the network,” said Mark Parzyk, the F-16 SIL lead. 

With more than 35 airborne aircraft, in addition to several ground and space assets in this Orange Flag event, the IFAST participated in a live test exercise with many Air Force and Navy warfighting platforms including the F-15E, F-16, F/A-18, F-22, F-35, and U-2. At other times, the system in the IFAST has run in a virtual or constructive test environment to produce test scenarios to support the Air Force Test Pilot School, 416th Flight Test Squadron projects and jammer pod development.  

The IFAST laboratories allow teams of engineers to be present alongside the developmental system to view results real-time and make corrections or adjustments during the event. This enables correcting problems before flight test starts, reducing flight costs and preventing delayed development cycles. The modular setup allows other aircraft or system hardware to be integrated with the developmental system, or the system can be integrated with operational hardware at the IFAST. 

“This is one step below a flying test bed, but still allows testers to bring systems into a relevant environment with the stable lab support required for early developmental systems,” said Capt. Phil Scott, IFAST Flight Commander.

The 772nd provides the ability to bring a sensor or system into the heart of the “Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe” at low cost, early in the development cycle.