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Examine advanced electronics for stealth, comms in F-35

Posted: 23 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:F-35  aircraft  avionics system  Radar Altimeters  ADC 

When I see the F-35 fighter aircraft flying over my condo every day and evening in Arizona and I hear the roar of their engines as they vertically land at nearby Luke Air Force Base, I am proud of the technological design as an engineer and especially the avionics designed by talented engineers in our field. That's why I want to bring you this article, the first of many, about this aircraft and the electronics marvels it contains. (Please understand that many of the detailed design architectures are classified so I will be presenting some typical design options for many of the avionics functions.)

The F-35 is what's called a multi-role fighter aircraft. This means that the fighter is a combat aircraft capable of destroying enemy targets on the ground with its own ordnance and performs different roles in combat such as being capable of air-to-air combat and electronic warfare. This amazing aircraft comes in three variants; Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL), Short Take Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) and Carrier Variant (CV). The CV can land on an aircraft carrier (figure 1) and the STOVL can take off and land from austere runways and amphibious ships since it is capable of Vertical Landing (VL).

Figure 1: The CV version of the F-35 coming in for an arrested landing on the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) with tail-hook down. (Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin photographer Andy Wolfe).

The F-35 is an all-weather aircraft as well as an excellent night fighter (figure 2).

Figure 2: The first F-35B night VL at Sea (Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin).

Electronics Battlespace protection
The Communications, Navigation, and Identification (CNI) system on the F-35 was designed and developed by Northrop Grumman for the Lockheed Martin aircraft. This is the most advanced avionics system ever engineered to date.

The CNI avionics system encompasses an Ultra High Frequency (UHF)/Very High Frequency (VHF) transceiver (composed of UHF FM, HAVEQUICK, SINGCARS, VMF 220D), Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) Interrogate/Transponder, Link 16, Joint Precision and Approach Landing System (JPALS), wireless communications and Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) (figure 3).

Figure 3: The F-35 Communications, Navigation, and Identification (CNI) and antenna locations. (Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman).

CNI Avionics systems
Here are some of the major systems that make up the CNI avionics:

UHF/VHF transceiver
HAVEQUICK(HQ) is a secure frequency hopping system that protects UHF military communications. The system design uses an all-channel group of frequency synthesisers with keyboards and displays for data entry. An accurate clock for timed synchronisation plus a microprocessor makes up the electronics. HQ is not compatible with the VHF-FM radios used by ground forces which operates on a different radio band and uses a different frequency hopping method. For this reason the F-35 also has a SINGCARS radio on board.

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