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Monday July 15, 2002

CV-22 'suspended' for countermeasures testing

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., USA ( by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ball, Air Force Flight Test Center Public Affairs ) - The CV-22, the U.S. Air Force variant of the V-22 Osprey, began testing its electronic countermeasures in the Benefield Anechoic Facility here recently. The aircraft will spend about three months suspended from the ceiling of the facility while the CV-22 Integrated Test Team checks out the electronic countermeasures package, called the suite of integrated radio frequency countermeasures, or SIRFC.
"This is kind of the heart and soul of the aircraft's defensive countermeasures," said Lt. Col. Tom Kennedy, the CV-22 program manager at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
The suite includes state-of-the-art integrated threat location and jamming technology, according to Kennedy. The emphasis of the testing is to characterize the performance of the SIRFC countermeasures.
Prior testing showed some of the antennas on the aircraft were not in optimal locations, Kennedy said, so the Edwards CV-22 ITT people relocated the antennas. Testing in the BAF will determine how well they are placed. The chamber time also will be used to test interoperability of the SIRFC with the multimode radar on the plane.
"If something is emitting electrons, we have to make sure it doesn't interfere with other systems," Kennedy said.
"Interoperability is critical," said Maj. Ernie Tavares, CV-22 development systems manager. "The CV-22 belongs to Air Force Special Operations Command, and one of its intended missions is low-altitude ingress -- less than 300 feet. If the SIRFC and the multimode radar aren't working together, it could jeopardize that mission."
According to Kennedy, the BAF is geared to simulate flight conditions, mitigating the risk of building the aircraft, flying it and then having it not perform.
"This phase of testing will be the verification of the homework the government and the contractors have performed," he said. "This is the last major hurdle. The next step would be to take it out on the range and fly it."
The aircraft currently being tested, called Ship 9, is one of two Ospreys here. The other plane, Ship 7, will be resuming flight testing sometime in late summer, according to Kennedy.
He said the electronics testing and the return to flight are two major milestones in the CV-22 program.
"The fact that Ship 9 is going into the BAF is no small achievement," Kennedy said. "The CV-22 ITT people had to do all the return-to-flight modifications and the SIRFC antenna mods -- it's a very complex procedure. At one time it looked like it would be late, but the maintainers got it back on schedule -- they even had it ready early."
Since January, the CV-22 ITT has had 704 maintenance events, or tasks, that had to be completed.
One of the major tasks was an almost entire rebuild of the vertical stabilizers.
"It's pretty much a brand new tail," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Achimasi, a CV-22 ITT avionics craftsman. "We took the old tail, tore it apart and added structure to beef up the support for the SIRFC antennas."
Both the send and receive antennas were relocated to the aft section of the tail because they encountered interference at their previous locations because of the tail structure.
Staff Sgt. Isaac Clayton, a 418th Flight Test Squadron avionics craftsman, was also involved with the modifications.
"We started this job just before Christmas, and we just finished it up last week," he said. "One of our structures specialists, Technical Sergeant (Thomas) Coons, handmade the fiberglass fairing inserts for the antennas to improve aerodynamics."
Other tasks included adding radar absorbent material near other antennas to reduce reflections, rerouting wires and replacing the original 16-foot fixed refueling probe with an 18-foot retractable one that sits flush with the nose when not being used.
According to Staff Sgt. Erik Halverson, a CV-22 ITT crew chief, the original probe had to be removed from the aircraft during the shipboard operational testing to get the plane to the flight deck.
"The new probe will save a lot of man-hours," Halverson said. The maintainers agreed that, although there have been some difficulties working with the aircraft, they have all enjoyed the challenge. "

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