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DEFENSE TESTS STEALTH FIGHTER EXPERIMENTS TAKING PLACE.

Byline: Daily News

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - The F-117 stealth fighter is being tested with a satellite communication system that lets it receive and send computer messages about enemy targets and threats.

F-117 Combined Test Force personnel from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale teamed last month with their operational counterparts from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to complete the second phase of the IRRCA program, short for ``Integrated Real-time Information Into the Cockpit/Real-time Information Out of the Cockpit for Combat Aircraft.''

The demonstration project is designed to provide the F-117 and its pilots with the ability to receive and transmit text and images from the air.

Phase one tests, completed in October 1998, allowed a pilot to receive live-threat information and manually replan a mission from the cockpit.

The second phase completed the test cycle by demonstrating the transmission of real-time mission and target data out of the cockpit and into the hands of command and control forces on the ground.

F-117 pilot Lt. Col. Phil DeLillo from Holloman flew the final test flight April 2 over the Naval Air Warfare Center's China Lake test range.

After takeoff, DeLillo was sent new target information that required him to replan the mission from the cockpit and attack a new target in a different location.

After simulating an attack on the new target, he transmitted battle damage assessment data back to the ground.

Test pilots previously flew test missions similar to DeLillo's using laser-guided bombs to destroy new targets and provide real-time battle damage assessments back to ground forces.

With enemy forces getting better at moving and hiding critical targets, DeLillo said the Air Force has to improve its ability to quickly find and hit targets.

``We have to reduce the timeline of detection, targeting and weapon impact,'' said DeLillo. ``The inherent surprise offered by stealth can enhance our response to time-critical targets.''

The target data technology works by allowing the aircraft to receive and transmit information via satellite communication, said Mike Seelos, the test's project manager at Edwards Air Force Base.

In phase-two flight tests, pilots focused on relaying real-time feedback of a weapons delivery from the point of release to the point of impact back to people on on the ground.

Both developmental and operational tests also showed a pilot could transmit preliminary battle damage assessments and mission reports from the cockpit to the ground within minutes after releasing a weapon.

``We know the stealth fighter is very capable as a weapon delivery platform, but now we've seen that it has the potential to play a reconnaissance role in a combat environment,'' Seelos said, who added the fighter's ability to send and receive text and images does not compromise its stealth configuration.

The F-117 combined test force includes the 410th Flight Test Squadron and lead F-117 contractor Lockheed Martin.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Lockheed Martin F-117 test pilot Jeff Knowles briefs Lt. Col. Phil DeLillo on a data transmission hardware being tested on the stealth fighter.

(2 -- color) A stealth fighter jet passes over the Sierra Nevadas.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 9, 2002
Words:513
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