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New Mission Control Room Ready For F-35 Flight Tests

Thomas Caputo, 412th Test Wing security administrator, and Cathy De Lima, 412th Range Squadron range control officer, perform computer diagnostics April 2 at the new F-35 Integrated Test Force control room at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The control room will enable test force people to better monitor the real-time performance of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter during its test missions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jet Fabara)
by Senior Airman Jason Hernandez
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Edwards AFB CA (AFNS) Apr 16, 2007
The newest range mission control room built to test the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was officially commissioned here April 11.

Combined with equipment installation and recent room certification, the range control room now provides the F-35 test team with the resources necessary to monitor the real-time performance of the aircraft during its test missions here.

The tests are conducted by the F-35 Integrated Test Force, which is composed of military, government civilian, contractor and foreign partner personnel, according to Steve Cronk, director of operations for the 412th Range Squadron.

"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 it."

Officials say the new control room is unique in that it is entirely personal computer based. It is larger and capable of processing more information per second.

The 412th Range Squadron, part of the 412th Test Engineering Group, is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the JSF control room. The agency that completed the range acceptance certification procedure for the new range mission control room was the 412th Test Management Group.

According to Nancy Bergren, test support operations lead with the F-35 ITF, the new control room is actually one of the many control rooms that the range squadron uses here in the Ridley Control Center.

"Initially, we looked at the range's existing control rooms and determined there wasn't enough capacity to support the JSF," Ms. Bergren said.

Up to 40 flight test engineers from the F-35 ITF will work in the control room, Ms. Bergren said. Eight people on the range support the operations and maintenance of the control room.

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," he 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 ITF's facility here, where it is put on a storage system.

"Because there is so much data coming from the aircraft in flight, we could not possibly look at all of it in real time," he 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."

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.

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