Tech Briefs

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

Mounting missiles, fuel tanks, or other types of equipment on the outside of an aircraft affects antenna patterns. In addition, new materials used in the construction of modern aircraft can alter antenna performance. A primary mission of the Newport Research Facility is to identify specific antenna effects and determine ways to minimize their impact on today's aircraft. The facility's aircraft pedestals allow engineers to test airframes at all rotational positions and at various pitch angles, thus offering a more comprehensive range of flight orientations than flight testing can provide (see figure). In only 8 minutes of range testing at the facility, engineers can obtain more antenna performance data than they could collect in 2 hours spent flying the future F-35.

Advance Technologies, Inc., located in Newport News, Virginia, designed and built the F-35 model to include features that capitalize on the test facility's unique measurement capabilities. The replica weighs just 8,500 lbs, and its interchangeable wing, fuselage, and tail components facilitate simulation of all three JSF variants. Rome Research Site fabrication personnel are manufacturing replicas of the F-35's external fuel tanks, weapons, and landing gear for the test program.