RF Field Probe

F-35 RCS Acceptance Test Facility

Lockheed Martin, Ft. Worth, Texas

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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.

field probe advanced RCS imaging
Photo by Randy Crites, LM Aero.

October 2010

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.

RF field probe
Photo by Randy Crites, LM Aero.
RF field probe
Photo by Randy Crites, LM Aero.

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.

RF field probe testing
F-35 testing
RF field probe testing
Photo by Bing Maps.
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.
F-35 testing
Photo by LM Aero.
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.

The Howland Company Inc

5012 Bristol Industrial Way
Suite 108
Buford, GA 30518


t. 678-546-5680
f. 678-546-5939
e. info@TheHowlandCompany.com


Monday - Friday:
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