Collaborative Efforts Yield Essential Data, Reduce Risk During Early CATBird JPALS Testing

Teamwork between government and industry teams advanced the Navy’s capability to recover aircraft in all weather conditions — a vital solution aimed at protecting people and equipment while enhancing the flexibility, power projection, and strike capabilities of carrier air wings.

The F-35 Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATBird), a modified Boeing 737-330, accomplished initial connectivity and datalink testing between the F-35 Lightning II and a Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) test facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland in 2014.

Over the past three months, the Landing Systems Test Facility also hosted CATBird to prepare for the second developmental test (DT-II) ship trials of the F-35C Lightning II scheduled for later this year.

“Initial testing with the JPALS ship system was very successful and met F-35 Lightning II primary test objectives,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Taylor, co-lead for the JPALS Integrated Product Team at the Naval Air Traffic Management Systems (PMA-213) program office. “Follow-on testing in April and May was also successful in capturing essential data that will deliver F-35 UDB risk reduction to developmental testing with the JPALS ship system.”

A key feature of the former commercial airliner is its ability to transport a team of test engineers in its flying laboratory specially equipped to integrate, test, and validate mission systems avionics for the F-35 Lightning II. The use of CATBird enables the team to test mission systems in a dynamic environment and apply real-time modifications the same day or even hours after a test flight.

At present, CATBird is supporting the development of software scheduled for release this year. The software is part of the Block 3F software build for upcoming F-35B/C developmental and operational tests.

The F-35 is currently integrating the UHF Data Broadcast (UDB) radio with the JPALS ship system as an interim solution during development of an auto-land capability into the JPALS ship system. This capability will allow the Navy to recover aircraft in all-weather conditions by removing human error from the carrier landing process.

To date, UDB tests have been a success due to the collaboration between PMA-213 and industry partners, Taylor noted.

Source: Naval Air Systems Command
Date: May 28, 2015