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Boeing begins JSF avionics testing aboard flying laboratory
13 December 1999
The Boeing Joint Strike Fighter One Team has begun five months of integrated avionics testing with the first test flight of its Avionics Flying Laboratory (AFL). During the first flight, engineers tested the core avionics processor, various sensors and mission software.
Boeing says the AFL, a modified 737-200, will reduce technical risk in JSF avionics development by letting engineers evaluate and troubleshoot the avionics systems before they are installed on the JSF.
"Early AFL testing will eliminate much of the guesswork that otherwise goes into avionics performance projections,'' said Dan Cossano, manager of Boeing JSF Mission Systems. "We will save development time and costs because the AFL allows us to test more efficiently than with a fighter platform.''
The AFL is fully instrumented for developing and assessing avionics-system performance. The most visible modification is a four-foot extension to the nose that houses a developmental radar and other sensors. A representative JSF cockpit has been installed in the aircraft's cabin. The AFL carries a crew of avionics engineers who monitor test data, fix problems and direct testing to take advantage of emerging results.
With near instantaneous fusion of data from on-board and off-board systems including other aircraft and the battlefield, the Boeing JSF avionics system frees the pilot from actively managing data flow in the cockpit.
Key components to be tested include radio-frequency and electro-optical sensors and a prototype core processor. The processor, which runs the mission-system software, uses an open architecture that enables reuse and easy portability.
The lab's superior range allows more thorough testing. It carries more instrumentation than a fighter can and doubles as a laboratory on the ground for tests that don't require flight conditions. Unlike a static ground-based lab, the AFL will demonstrate JSF capabilities in a dynamic, airborne setting against a wide variety of real targets embedded in their environments.
Boeing is competing with Lockheed Martin to build the JSF under a four-year US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps concept demonstration phase contract