General Dynamics AFTI F-16

Last revised December 28, 2007


To evaluate unconventional control of an aircraft in flight using CCV surfaces directed by digital systems, the Flight Dynamics Laboratory of the Air Force Systems Command sponsored an Advanced Fighter Technology Integration (AFTI) program. In 1979, General Dynamics was awarded a contract to convert the sixth FSD F-16A (75-0750) into an AFTI aircraft. It capitalized on the experience gained with the CCV (Control Configured Vehicle) F-16 (72-1567).

The AFTI F-16 was fitted with twin canard surfaces mounted below the air intake, these surfaces having been taken from the CCV/F-16. The aircraft was fitted with a bulged spine which housed additional electronics. It had a full-authority triplex Digital Flight Control System (DFCS) and an Automated Maneuvering Attack System (AMAS). This system provides six independent degrees of freedom and utilizes a voice command system with a dictionary of 50 words. It is designed to be fault tolerant, so that no single failure should affect correct operation. In the event of a second fault developing, the system is able to revert to a standby condition which will permit safe flight to continue. To guard against unforseen failure modes which might bring the entire digital flight control system down, the system incorporates a simple analog backup flight-control system.

The AFTI took to the air for the first time at Fort Worth on July 10, 1982, Alex V. Wolfe being at the controls. Following manufacturers trials carried out at Carswell AFB, Texas, the AFTI/F-16 was moved to Edwards AFB for a two-year program of flight tests. Phase I testing was primarily devoted to evaluating the DFCS and involved the demonstration of direct translational maneuvering capability. Phase I testing was completed on July 30, 1983. In 1984 Phase II testing started with a dummy, then an operational FLIR mounted in the wing root, F-16C-standard avionics fitted, and the Automated Maneuvering Attack System was installed. During Phase II testing, which lasted until 1987, the AMAS enabled the AFTI/F-16 to translate in all three axes at a constant angle of attack and for the nose to be pointed up to six degrees away from the flight vector. >[? The digital flight control system gave the pilot a new freedom in maneuvering, making it possible to assume unorthodox flight attitudes, using nose pointing, direct force translation, and other unconventional means of maneuver. The aircraft was also used to test and evaluate a variety of single-place cockpit layouts and systems. Pilots evaluated heads-up and head-down displays, voice interaction command systems, synthesized speech voice warnings, and touch-sensitive display screens. This aircraft also tried out products from the the Air Force Microcomputer Applications of Graphics and Interactive Communications (MAGIC) project, which studies pictorial formats for situation displays in all three axes.

In September of 1987, the F-16/AFTI team received the Air Force Association's 1987 Theodor von Karman Award for the most outstanding achievement in science and engineering.

In recent years, the AFTI/F-16 became associated with close air support (CAS) studies, some of them conducted by NASA. These studies began in 1991. In this configuration, the large moveable ventral foreplanes were removed, and various attack infrared sensors were mounted in wingroot turret fairings and above the nose in front of the cockpit. These close air support tests were in support of the proposed A-16 or other future close air support/battlefield air interdiction aircraft. The AFTI/F-16 was later upgraded with an F-16C Block 25 wing and with Block 40 F-16C features such as APG-68 radar and a LANTIRN interface. It went through a five-phase CAS evaluation program over 1988-1991, testing such low-level battlefield interdiction techniques as automatic target handoff-systems in which target data was transferred from ground stations or from other aircraft to the AFTI/F-16, the Pave Penny laser-designator pod, off-axis weapons launch techniques, and various digital systems. The AFTI/F-16 fired a HARM missile for the first time on May 19, 1994 as part of the Talon Sword Bravo program in a demonstration of technology that could be used for the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) role. The purpose of this demonstration was to show how sensor data from satellites, received and correlated by a support aircrart, could allow an attacking aircraft to direct weapons against selected emitters.

Sources:


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