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AFTI/F-16 Air probe close-up AFTI/F-16 Air probe close-up

Photo Number: ECN-20752A
Photo Date: October 28, 1982

Formats: 602x480 JPEG Image (98 KBytes)
1280x1020 JPEG Image (334 KBytes)

This close-up view shows the AFTI F-16 air probe early in the research program. It consists of a nose boom resembling a long pipe, and four indicators that look and act like weather vanes. The indicators on the left and right measure pitch, or the movement of the airplane's nose up or down. Those on the top and bottom of the boom measure yaw, or movement of the nose to the left or right.

Similar probes are standard on most research and prototype aircraft. The data from the indicators is recorded aboard the aircraft and/or radioed to the ground. This data includes both the amount of yaw and pitch at any given time, and the rate at which both motions changed in flight. This information, subsequently processed and compared to wind tunnel results, may reveal stability and aerodynamic abnormalities.

The two metal half-circles and their attachment fixtures are not part of the air probe. Rather, they are used to calibrate the indicators on the ground, enabling the data to be corrected for instrument errors. The figure in the photograph is shown holding a red "Remove Before Flight" ribbon, a reminder to the ground crew that it must be taken off prior to a research mission.

During the 1980s and 1990s, NASA and the U.S. Air Force participated in a joint program to integrate and demonstrate new avionics technologies to improve close air support capabilities in next-generation aircraft.

The testbed aircraft was called the Advanced Fighter Technology Integration (AFTI) F-16. The tests demonstrated technologies to improve navigation and the pilot's ability to find and destroy enemy ground targets day or night, including adverse weather. The aircraft--an F-16A Fighting Falcon (Serial #75-0750)--underwent numerous modifications. A relatively low-cost testbed, it evaluated the feasability of advanced, intergrated-sensor, avionics, and flight control technologies.

During the first phase of the AFTI/F-16 program, which began in 1983, the aircraft demonstrated voice-actuated commands, helmet-mounted sights, flat turns, and selective fuselage pointing using forward-mounted canards and a triplex digital flight control computer system.

The second phase of research, which began in the summer of 1991, demonstrated advanced technologies and capabilities to find and destroy ground targets day or night, and in adverse weather while using maneuverability and speed at low altitude. This phase was known as the close air support and battlefield air interdiction (CAS/BAI) phase.

Finally, the aircraft was used to assess the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto - GCAS), a joint project with the Swedish Government. For these tests, the pilot flew the aircraft directly toward the ground, simulating a total loss of control. The GCAS was designed to take command in such emergencies and bring the aircraft back to level flight.

The AFTI F-16 program ended at Dryden on November 4, 1997 after 15 years and over 700 research flights. The USAF continued to fly the aircraft until retiring it to the Air Force Museum on January 9, 2001.

Keywords: F-16; AFTI; Advanced Fighter Technology Integration; Lockheed; Fighting Falcon; Air Force; Auto-GCAS; Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System; voice-actuated commands; helmet-mounted sights; flat turns; selective fuselage pointing; forward-mounted canards

Last Modified: February 6, 2002
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