Engineers evaluate F-35 Joint Strike Fighter antenna performance using a unique far-field aperture measurement facility.

Engineers are conducting sophisticated performance testing of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) antennas at the AFRL Newport Research Facility, New York. Through an agreement with the F-35 Joint Program Office, engineers from Lockheed Martin and AFRL's Rome Research Site are collaborating on the test effort. Because antenna testing is occurring early in the aircraft development cycle, the team is using a model—a full-scale F-35 replica—to measure the installed performance of the aircraft's communications, navigation, identification, and electronic warfare antennas. The goal of this testing program is to optimize antenna performance and identify and correct antenna problems before the aircraft design is finalized and antenna system changes consequently become more difficult and expensive to incorporate.

A full-scale JSF model mounted on a pedestal at AFRL’s antenna research and measurement facility (photo courtesy of Captain Gabriel Mounce)
The JSF is a stealthy, supersonic, multirole fighter designed to replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft, including the US' AV-8B Harrier, A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Hornet, along with the United Kingdom's Harrier GR.7 and Sea Harrier. Three variants derived from a common design will ensure the aircraft meets the performance needs of the Air Force (AF), Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as those of allied defense forces worldwide.

The Newport Research Facility, a worldclass antenna measurement facility that has been in existence for more than 30 years, is the only AF facility of its kind. The facility spans 2 hilltops and includes a total of 6 data collection locations and 10 measurement ranges. The 2 hills are separated by 1.5 miles and a 430-foot valley. Each hilltop houses transmit and receive equipment and heavy-duty, 3-axis aircraft pedestals. Engineers use the Newport facility to evaluate antennas and antenna systems in a "free space" environment, determine radiation pattern changes resulting from airframe effects, evaluate antenna-to-antenna system coupling, and support advanced antenna measurement technology development.