The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program's Cooperative Avionics
Test Bed (CATB) aircraft lands at Edwards AFB to perform
equipment fit checks on 3/1/07.
Photo: Chad Bellay
3/8/2007 - EDWARDS AFB, CA -- The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
program's Cooperative Avionics Test Bed aircraft landed here
March 1 to perform equipment fit checks and verify the operation
of Edwards facilities built specifically for the CATB.
The CATB is a Boeing 737-300 specially modified to perform
mission systems testing for the F-35 program.
"It is a six-year program that will test all the F-35
systems at once for early risk reduction," said Mark Burke,
CATB project manager. "Testing will be performed at various
locations including Fort Worth (Texas), Eglin (Air Force Base,
Fla.), Edwards, China Lake (Naval Air Station, Calif.) and Point
Mugu (NAS, Calif). The tests will enable us to find avionics
problems early and reduce the workload on the F-35. If there
is a hardware or software problem, we will find it early."
One flight on the CATB saves the F-35 an estimated four flights,
Mr. Burke said. The avionics-test-bed flights will save the
F-35 from flying about 300 missions.
Extensive modifications were done to the CATB to accommodate
the full array of avionics that will be installed on an F-35,
said Retired Maj. Gen. Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
Company F-35 Integrated Test Force vice president and former
Air Force Flight Test Center commander.
British Aerospace Systems and Lockheed Martin performed the
modifications in Mojave, Calif., Mr. Pearson said.
Lockheed completed the first round of modifications and put
the entire infrastructure in the airplane.
"We've been flying for the last six weeks and concluded
that the aircraft is airworthy," Mr. Pearson said.
The modifications to the CATB include a sensor wing ahead of
the 737 main wing as well as added structures on top and bottom
of the aircraft to accommodate other JSF avionics systems, Mr.
Pearson said. The front of the airplane has a modified nose
representing the F-35 nose.
"We will also install the F-35's radar on the CATB and
take the avionics test bed with the F-35 systems airborne so
we can conduct testing in a fairly realistic flying environment,"
The CATB aircraft returned to Fort Worth on March 2 to have
further modifications made, Mr. Pearson said.
"A lot of the testing will be flown out of Fort Worth,"
said Tim Cacanindin, Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force
mission systems lead engineer. "They have similar laboratories
on the ground that will be involved in installing the F-35 avionics
systems. The CATB will deploy to Edwards by the end of this
year and periodically after that.
"Testing will probably continue all the way through 2013
for the aircraft's system development and demonstration phase,"
he said. "Lockheed Martin hopes to keep flying the CATB
well after that to continue developing new systems before they
are installed on the F-35."
The Boeing 737-300, Mr. Pearson said, was chosen for avionics
testing for a number of reasons including the fact the aircraft
can fly long ranges and is capable of carrying necessary equipment
such as the F-35 systems. The aircraft will also accommodate
20 work stations inside for conducting tests.
"An incredible amount of engineering work has gone into
modifying the CATB," Mr. Cacanindin said. "I believe
the CATB will be the most capable test bed developed for any
fighter program. Most test beds only have some of the systems
of a fighter. This aircraft almost exactly duplicates the F-35
"It will be a tremendous asset to the F-35 program,"
Source: USAF Edwards AFB Press Release by Senior Airman