The 737-400 Will Replicate F-35 Avionics Suite For Testing
ANN has learned the Joint
Strike Fighter Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATB), a 737-300
aircraft extensively modified by BAE Systems, successfully
completed its maiden flight January 23 at Mojave, California
capping a near three-year modification program.
The aircraft, also known as the "CAT-Bird," is a flying test bed
replicating the F-35 avionics suite. The CATB will help BAE develop
and verify the F-35’s capability to collect data from
multiple sensors for display on proprietary cockpit systems.
"Today’s flight caps what has been a significant technical
challenge," said John Wall, BAE Systems CATB program director in
Mojave, where the work was performed. "The CAT-Bird is helping the
Lightning II take its place as the premier fighter aircraft serving
the US and multi-nation partners for decades to come."
BAE told ANN the CAT-Bird is now in a one-month test flight
phase to prove the aerodynamics of the converted airliner -- an
important required validation of modifications made to
accommodate the avionics test requirements. Included among them was
the addition of a nose extension to simulate that of the F-35, a
42-foot-long spine on the top, a 10-foot "canoe" on the bottom to
accommodate electronic equipment, and twin 12-foot sensor wings
that replicate the leading edge of the F-35’s wings.
Inside the aircraft, BAE replicated an F-35 cockpit allowing the
sensor inputs to be displayed as they will in the fighter itself.
The rest of the interior houses equipment racks for the avionics,
and 20 workstations for technicians to assess systems
"The CAT-Bird is a vitally important and powerful tool in
Lockheed Martin’s arsenal for early risk mitigation and
maturation of the F-35," said Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin’s
vice president of the F-35 Integrated Test Force. "It allows us to
concurrently develop and integrate mission systems hardware and
software well before it is installed on F-35s. We congratulate BAE
Systems on today’s successful first flight and look forward
to many years of productive flight test operation."
The maiden flight was the first of about 20
sorties comprising CAT-Bird’s initial test phase
according to BAE. After completing some additional modification
work and the initial flight test phase, BAE will take the CATB
to Lockheed Martin's facility in Fort Worth, TX to begin test
operations in developing and evaluating the F-35's extensive sensor