F-35 targeting system enters flight-testing on CATBird

Washington DC
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A new sensor for the Lockheed Martin F-35 targeting system has entered flight tests aboard a surrogate aircraft.

The electro-optical targeting system (EOTS), developed by Lockheed's Missiles and Fire Control division, is being tested aboard the BAE Systems co-operative avionics test bed (CATBird).

The tests on the Boeing 737 modified with the F-35's cockpit and flight-control surfaces is the final step before integrating the passive targeting system on BF-4, the flight-test aircraft for the short-take-off and vertical landing variant dedicated to mission systems testing.

The EOTS is installed under the F-35 cockpit and tucked inside a faceted, low-observable turret. Its job is to lock on to targets visually, especially when the F-35 is unable to use radar.

Lockheed confirms the tests on the CATBird are using Block 1.0 software, which allows the EOTS to align its sensors using the F-35's navigation data.

The CATBird tests follow three years of airborne testing for EOTS aboard a Sabreliner testbed, which lacked integration with the F-35's Block 1.0 software system.

"The CATBird's dynamic flight environment provides the first opportunity to test and evaluate how EOTS integrates into the F-35's fused sensor architecture," says Rich Hinkle, EOTS programme director for the F-35.