Air Force tests F-35 fighter aircraft avionics; first combat-ready jet to fly this summer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.–The Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATBird) aircraft has completed a demonstration of qualities of military avionics systems being developed for the F-35 Lightning II fighter-bomber during tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

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By John McHale

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.–The Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATBird) aircraft has completed a demonstration of qualities of military avionics systems being developed for the F-35 Lightning II fighter-bomber during tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The deployment included airborne testing of the F-35 Lightning II radar, electronic warfare, and communications/navigation/identification (CNI) systems, and more than 2.8 million lines of mission systems flight software. These tests are intended to reduce hardware and software risks before tests of the first combat-ready F-35 aircraft later this year.

CATBird is a modified Boeing 737 airliner equipped with the integrated F-35 mission systems suite. During the April tests, CATBird conducted 10 mission systems test flights evaluating the radar, CNI, EW, and other sensors.

“Performance of the aircraft infrastructure and on-board sensors exceeded my expectations and gives the test team added confidence that we are on track to fly the first mission systems F-35 aircraft this summer,” says Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president of the F-35 Integrated Test Force. “The deployment was superbly supported by the Air Force Flight Test Center.”


The first combat-ready version of the F-35 joint strike fighter, shown above, is on track for its first flight this summer.
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The F-35 will have a Northrop Grumman active electronically scanned array radar, electro-optical distributed aperture system and CNI system; a Lockheed Martin electro-optical targeting system; a BAE Systems electronic warfare system; and other advanced systems providing information that is integrated before being presented to the pilot on a VSI helmet-mounted display and a touch-screen glass cockpit display.

The F-35 is a supersonic, multi-role, fifth-generation stealth fighter. Three variants are derived from a common design, developed together, and use the same sustainment infrastructure.

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