Team Tyndall joins Air Force in developing F-22 FCR

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Samuel King Jr.
  • 53rd Wing Public Affairs
  A Weapon System Evaluation Program data collection modification ... $350 million. Thinking outside of the box ... $55,000.. Air Force supporting Air Force ... priceless! 

That's a perfect description of the process used to analyze, develop and test a new Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile data collection system for the F-22 Raptor. 

Four wings, located at three different bases, worked side-by-side to solve the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron WSEP's critical data collection issue in less than three months. 

"Early in the F-22 program, the problem of receiving AMRAAM telemetry signals (transmission of data from the missile to ground receiving site) while the missile is still in the bay has been the cause of great concern for the engineering community due to the stealth capabilities of the jet," said Doug Ayers, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group lead Raytheon Missile Systems engineer. 

Due to the Raptor's internal AIM-120C missile stations, 83rd FWS WSEP evaluators were missing critical missile cueing data. 

"This data is critical in determining the target location the F-22 sends to the missile during its launch cycle," said Gordon Starr, Raytheon senior systems engineer. "Although many options were discussed, none were viable due to the high price tag, so an alternative plan had to be devised." 

Originally, the proposed modification plan was to cost $350 million, he said. Then another plan was submitted for only some of the Raptors to be modified, which meant they couldn't be tested at WSEP and the cost would still be very large. 

In May, members of the 53rd WEG were already brainstorming the problem and possible solutions. After a close inspection of an F-22 by Raytheon engineers, and viewing the in-flight cases housed in the Raptor's external weapons stations, an idea emerged. 

The cases, which held spare wings and fins used on extra AIM-120 missiles, could be used to store something else. The engineers made arrangements to take the cases to Al Berard, 46th Test Wing development branch chief assigned to Eglin AFB, Fla. 

"Mr. Berard and his team have been modifying jets at Eglin for decades and have years of experience with in-flight telemetry systems," said Mr. Starr. 

After hearing what was needed, Mr. Berard and his six-person team put together a working prototype in less than two weeks. 

"We had to provide the means of receiving and recording data on the F-22 without installing instrumentation or deriving power from the aircraft," said Mr. Berard.
The flight case was a perfect fit. 

Dubbed the "Flight Case Recorder," the battery-powered unit would contain a programmable receiver that adjusts to the frequency and transmission speed of a given missile. The data would record to a compact flash card like those commonly used in digital cameras. The unit fits neatly into the Raptor's in-flight case, keeping it separate from any controls or electronics. 

Now that the idea had become a reality, there was coordination and certification to be done. 

"The unit needed to be funded and flight certified, security requirements had to be addressed, software had to be written to read and process the data after it was recorded," said Jim Moore, 53rd Test Support Squadron technical advisor. "Tests had to be developed to verify operation on a jet with multiple missiles and to verify the unit wouldn't affect the Raptor's flight controls."

 In June, the first FCR test began with the 43rd Fighter Squadron. Don Linn and his missile support team from the 83rd FWS consolidated munitions, prepared the missiles and worked with Raytheon and Mr. Berard to ensure the telemetry signal could be seen and recorded from all four missiles. 

Since the first test adjustments, the modified units have now flown seven times on the Raptor and accurately captured data from two AIM-120C missile launches. 

"Analysis confirmed that the data captured by the FCRs is absolutely pristine with no noise or dropouts," said Mr. Starr. "And the FCR is not just limited to the AIM-120 data. It can also collect AIM-9 data and any other data used in the standard telemetry band including bombs." 

Based on those tests, the FCRs are becoming part of the F-22 inventory. The total cost for this new equipment is a fraction of the initial modification plan. 

"My hat is off to the folks in the 53rd WEG, 46th TEST, 43rd FS, 83rd FWS, 94th FS, and the F-22 special projects officer," said Col. Mike Winslow, 53rd WEG commander. "This is a prime example of how tough problems can be solved quickly by motivated individuals using some 'out of the box' thinking and teamwork."