RF Field Probe
F-35 RCS Acceptance Test Facility
Lockheed Martin, Ft. Worth, Texas

F-35 RCS Acceptance Test Facility, Lockheed Martin, Ft. Worth--ribbon cutting ceremony.
LM Aero Photo

Like the F-22, each production F-35 will undergo full RCS imaging measurements to verify that the aircraft's stealth characteristics meet specifications. Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems in Ft. Worth, where F-35 final assembly takes place, has built a dedicated facility for RCS acceptance testing. (This facility is similar, though somewhat larger, than the facility The Howland Company designed for Lockheed Martin to support F-22 production in Marietta, Georgia.) The special requirements of this unique testing scenario--a large quiet zone, handling full-scale aircraft in a production environment, and the need to accomplish testing quickly and with high confidence--have resulted in a unique, state-of-the-art production test facility. When F-35 production reaches peak rates, Lockheed Martin plans to cycle one aircraft per day through the Acceptance Test Facility.

 

To assess the performance of the completed F-35 Acceptance Test Facility, Lockheed asked The Howland Company to perform field probe measurements. We designed a high-accuracy, 50-foot tower probe system with motion control and RF subsystems which interface with the measurement system's instrumentation radar. We also delivered a custom data reduction and analysis software package developed by CompuQuest. We completed an extensive set of vertical and horizontal scans at both vertical and horizontal polarizations and 256 frequencies. Using the field probe data and CompuQuest's analysis software, Lockheed's engineers were able to confirm that the measurement system is performing well within the parameters required for F-35 RCS imaging tests.

Lockheed Martin has issued a press release about the Acceptance Test Facility.

     
     

Japan's first F-35 inside the Acceptance Test Facility RCS measurement facility.   The first F-35 built for Japan in the RCS measurement facility at Lockheed Martin's plant in Fort Worth.

Update, August 2016: The JASDF released photographs showing the first F-35 built for Japan, aircraft AX-1,  inside the Acceptance Test Facility. The first four F-35s of the 42 currently planned for the Japanese military are being built in the Fort Worth assembly plant. The rest will be built at the FACO at Mitsubishi's Nagoya facility. The Howland Company has supported Lockheed Martin at both the Ft Worth and Nagoya RCS facilities, as well as the Italian F-35 FACO in Cameri.
     
Airframe AF-03 being prepared for RCS measurement. F-35 AF-03 inside the RCS Acceptance Test Facility, Lockheed Martin Fort Worth.LM Aero Photo F-35C, aircraft CF-03, being measured in the RCS Acceptance Test Facility.
 
 

Update: In October 2010, Lockheed accomplished a major milestone with the testing of airframe AF-03, the second F-35A with full mission systems, in the Acceptance Test Facility (left and center). In May 2011, airframe CF-03, the first 'fully loaded' F-35C, was measured (right). The HALO radar signature test model was measured in the ATF in 2009. Click each image for a larger version.

 
     
     
Aerial view of the F-35 RCS Acceptance Test Facility, Lockheed Martin, Ft Worth.   F-35A HALO model mounted in the RCS Acceptance Test Facility
Bing Maps    LM Aero photo

An aerial view of the RCS Acceptance Test Facility. The blue and yellow gantry structure outside the building is a mobile transporter which was used to lift the aircraft under test and position it atop the RCS pylons in early test operations.

 

A full-scale model inside the RCS Acceptance Test Facility. This photo was made during form and fit tests of the aircraft support and positioning systems.