Lockheed Martin Tests Joint Strike Fighter with NI Software and PXI
National Instruments announced that Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co recently began tests to further refine the design and operation of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, scheduled for deployment in 2004. By replacing VME-based systems with new test systems using industry-standard measurement software and hardware from National Instruments, conducting these tests on the next-generation jet fighter now occurs 80 times faster when compared to previous equipment while saving the aeronautics company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Thanks to the versatility of NI software and hardware, we now have more reliable, more powerful test systems that cost us only a portion of what an upgrade of our previous VME-based test equipment would have cost,” said Darrel Russell, senior staff engineer at Lockheed Martin. “Not only did we save money by choosing LabVIEW and PXI, we also now run our wind tunnel tests up to 80 times faster than with our older system.”
In testing its designs for the military aircraft, Lockheed Martin uses two measurement systems built by NI Alliance Program Member G Systems. One system uses LabVIEW Real-Time and PXI-based measurement hardware to monitor and control a series of detailed engine tests conducted in a transonic wind tunnel. A second test system uses NI LabWindows/CVI and measurement hardware to test aircraft subsystems using a full-scale mock-up of the jet.
Engineers at Lockheed Martin use LabVIEW Real-Time to test the single turbo jet engine that powers the F-35. To duplicate how air flows into the engine in various flying conditions, engineers test a scale model of the F-35 engine inside a wind tunnel. They use LabVIEW Real-Time to monitor the transonic forces generated by the wind tunnel that, if allowed to flow unchecked, could severely damage the engine. Providing the exacting wind tunnel control feedback requires LabVIEW Real-Time to perform 450,000 floating-point calculations every 50 milliseconds while measuring air pressures across 128 different channels at up to 20,000 samples per second. LabVIEW works with two PXI chassis, each equipped with eight NI 4472 dynamic signal acquisition modules, to acquire the dynamic air pressure data.
“The open, modular PXI platform provided us with off-the-shelf technologies necessary to implement a cost-effective yet technically challenging application,” said Dave Scheibenhoffer, G Systems director of sales and marketing. “With the tight integration of LabVIEW and industry-standard hardware, we were able to develop a operating system in less than four months, significantly increasing the capabilities over the original system.”
In addition to testing engine performance, Lockheed Martin engineers currently are developing an NI-based application for measuring temperature, flow rates, pressures, and other parameters needed to evaluate the performance of the F-35’s numerous subsystems. These systems reside on the ‘aircraft systems simulator,” a life-sized mock-up of the F-35, which sits on a large metal carriage and is “flown” by a pilot in a flight simulator. NI LabWindows/CVI combined with NI hardware monitors 1,200 signals from the aircraft simulator using 800 analog and 400 digital inputs and outputs. All this information is synchronized via five PXI chassis that interface with the aerospace industry’s IRIG-B timing standard.