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F-22 Raptor Flight Tests Missile Noise, Vibration

The F-22 Combined Test Force achieved another first when a Raptor flew with an
AIM-120D missile in its weapons bay to test the effect of noise and vibration on the missile.

By Christopher Ball / 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., April 20, 2006 – The F-22 Combined Test Force here achieved another first when a Raptor flew with an AIM-120D missile in its weapons bay to test the effect of noise and vibration on the missile April 14.

What was unique about the flight was that the weapon on board, the latest version of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile is still being developed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

"This is a first for the Raptor, as the weapon hasn't been fielded yet," said Capt. Jason Armstrong, an armament engineer with the 411th Flight Test Squadron here.

"In the past, we've integrated existing weapons systems such as the Joint Direct Attack Munitions into the aircraft," he explained. “We're doing this flight testing to help Eglin develop the weapon."

Micah Besson and Adam Yingling, structural engineers with the 411th Flight Test Squadron, explained the need for noise and vibration testing.

"In previous tests with the C-7 (the AIM-120C), measurements determined that vibration levels in certain frequencies were harmful to the missile's electronics, Besson said.

"In previous tests with the C-7 (the AIM-120C), measurements determined that vibration levels in certain frequencies were harmful to the missile's electronics."

Micah Besson, structural engineer

The difference between the AIM-120D and the earlier C-model is in the navigation system, Yingling said.

"The cards inside are arranged differently, and we're not sure how vibro-acoustics will transmit," he said. "We needed to test the missile to validate Raytheon's modeling and assumptions."

Raytheon is the contractor responsible for designing and building the AIM-120 series missile.

The test plan includes putting the aircraft through a variety of maneuvers throughout the flight regime of the aircraft, including working with the weapons bay doors open and closed, Yingling said.

"We're trying to give the missile the worst ride and expose it to the worst possible environment," he added.

Yingling said the tests will allow Raytheon to gather data, which will be used in future qualification tests.

See Caption.
An AIM-120D Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile is loaded onto an F-22A Raptor in preparation for noise and vibration testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Robertson

"The data gathered using these pods provides real-time, detailed feedback," said Halverson. "By the time a pilot engages a real-world enemy, their instincts regarding air-to-air combat or providing ground support is second nature."

"Our job is to maintain the components by working with item managers, equipment specialists, system engineers, and technicians," he explained. "We do the same for test equipment."

The pods were introduced into the Air Force in 1974; prior to that instructors used "stick aircraft," said Nicholson; "wooden models of aircraft used to demonstrate maneuvers. Instructors would stand in front of the class and demonstrate moves using wooden aircraft. Everything was done in two dimensional, and aircrews had to use live ammo to practice using their guns and missiles."

By maintaining the system components and not purchasing brand new complete pods, the Air Force saves hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

In the works, however, is a more comprehensive scheme. Known as the P5 Combat Training System, it's designed to provide a state-of-the-art mission debrief environment and improved mission recall.

"It'll provide accurate time space position information for up to 72 airborne participants," said Nicholson.

"The debrief facilities, combined with training from experienced pilots and staff, will provide an accurate and complete assessment of aircrew weapons systems – determining the actual outcome of 'air battles' and reviewing lessons learned from previous missions," he explained.

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Nov. 23, 2014
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