4/6/2007 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CA. -- The 412th
Test Management Group completed the range acceptance
certification procedure on March 23 for the newest
range mission control room built to test the F-35
Joint Strike Fighter.
Unofficial assessments of the certification state the
control room is ready to support any mission, said
Michelle Caldera, program manager of the Range Control
Rooms project with the 412th Test Support Squadron
project management directorate.
"It's exciting to work on something this significant
and state of the art," said Ms. Caldera. "We're still
working on getting the security certification
The range control room was designed to provide the
F-35 test team with the facilities necessary to
monitor the real-time performance of the aircraft
during its test missions here, said Steve Cronk,
Director of Operations for the 412th Range Squadron.
The construction of the control room started in 2004,
and took about six months to complete. Equipment
installation and room certification is now completed,
and the room is scheduled to be commissioned
Wednesday. The 412th Range Squadron, a part of the
412th Test Engineering Group, is responsible for the
operation and maintenance of the JSF control room.
"The new control room is actually just one of the
many control rooms that the range squadron uses here
in the Ridley Control Center," said Nancy Bergren,
test support operations lead with the F-35 Integrated
Test Force. "Initially, we looked at the range's
existing control rooms and determined there wasn't
enough capacity to support the JSF."
Up to approximately 40 flight test engineers from the
F-35 Integrated Test Force will work in the control
room, Ms. Bergren said. Eight people on the range
support the operations and maintenance of the control
The tests are conducted by the Integrated Test Force,
which is comprised of government civilian, military,
contractor and foreign partner personnel, Mr. Cronk
"The control room allows us to deliver a better
product to the warfighter sooner," he said. "The
capability here provides us the ability to thoroughly
test and evaluate the performance of the F-35 and find
any problems with the aircraft long before we deliver
During missions, the control room will receive
telemetry data from the F-35 and video data from the
range, Ms. Bergren said.
"The technology in this control room is state of the
art in real-time data-processing capabilities," Mr.
Cronk said. "When the JSF is full up and running, this
control room will process about 250,000 parameters
from the aircraft at 3 million samples per second. The
F-22 had 120,000 parameters processed at about 1
million samples per second. So you can see how
technology has improved in just a few years."
"We know everything that is happening on the
aircraft," Mr. Cronk said. "In the 250,000
measurements received from the aircraft, we can see
stick positions, rudder positions, internal engine
temperature, brake pressures and more. You name it, we
see it all in the mission control room in real time.
It is far more information than the pilot could ever
possibly know while flying the aircraft."
Once a mission is over, the flight test engineers can
access the data from their personal computers for a
more detailed analysis, Mr. Cronk said. The data is
electronically transferred down to the Integrated Test
Force's facility here, where it is put on a storage
"Because there is so much data coming from the
aircraft in flight, we could not possibly look at all
of it in real time," Mr. Cronk said. "The engineers
can go back and look at specific aspects of the test
and get a better feel for the aircraft. In the future,
the flight test team can compare data received 10
missions ago and compare it to present performance to
see the changes and improvements they have made."
The first aircraft is being tested in Fort Worth,
Texas, and is scheduled to arrive here in September
for testing, Ms. Bergren said. The second aircraft
delivered from Lockheed will be a short takeoff and
vertical landing variant, which will go to Patuxent
River Naval Air Station, Md. The first conventional
takeoff and landing variant to represent Air Force
specifications is set to arrive here in 2009.
"The new control room is the first control room that
will be able to support the F-35," Ms. Bergren said.
"We plan to build three more control rooms, which will
enable us to conduct four F-35 test missions at the
same time and receive data from each one
independently. Some of those missions will have more
than one F-35 in them."
The good flying weather, proximity to the lake beds
and the infrastructure of the test facilities make
Edwards an ideal place to test the F-35, Mr. Cronk
"Edwards is also close to other ranges in the
Southwestern United States," he said. "Some missions
will fly over Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and
over the ocean. We can receive data from that location
as if the aircraft were sitting on the ramp here."
Edwards will have five F-35's permanently assigned
here in the future for developmental testing and up to
three Naval variants visiting, Ms. Bergren said.
"This is the best place to do 'engine-out' testing of
a single engine aircraft," she said. "Engine-out
testing involves shutting down the engine in flight to
prove that the aircraft can restart the engine in
flight. If the engine does not restart, the lake bed
provides a suitable place to land the aircraft."
The new control room is unique because it is entirely
personal computer based, Ms. Bergren said. It is the
next generation beyond the control rooms used for the
F-22A Raptor. It is larger and capable of processing
more information per second.
Ms. Bergren said the control room has performed well
in acceptance test runs. During the tests, engineers
in the control room received information from a
mission simulator. They ran through the information
cards and communicated with each other as if it were a
"After the commissioning on Wednesday, we want to
start doing rehearsal missions as soon as possible,"
Ms. Bergren said. "Rehearsals will be conducted using
simulations and data played back from Fort Worth F-35
testing. We expect the aircraft to arrive in September
for live aircraft test support missions using the new
mission control room."
The JSF system design and development phase is
scheduled to end in 2013, but further testing is
likely beyond that, Ms. Bergren said.
"Making the control room a reality for JSF has been
challenging and a lot of fun," she said. "I think we
have created an awesome control room that will be able
to support the F-35 for the life of the program."
Source: USAF Edwards AFB Press Release by Senior
Airman Jason Hernandez