The Royal Netherlands Air Force recently tested the latest version of the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system. This system allows F-16 pilots to identify the origin of another aircraft and thus avoid attacking allied aircraft. The National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) was responsible for processing and analysing the test data. The tests were commissioned by Lockheed Martin.
The flight tests were supervised by the Leeuwarden Flight Test Office and carried out at Leeuwarden Air Base.
The IFF onboard system, which operates via an electronic question and answer procedure, allows pilots to distinguish between enemy aircraft and allied aircraft. The latest version of the IFF (the IFF Mode 5) is more reliable and accurate than previous versions.
During the tests – which lasted for approximately one week – a ground test and two flight tests were conducted, yielding a wealth of data. NLR processed and analysed this data. The data will now be further analysed at Lockheed Martin and the Edwards Air Force Base test centre, with the aim being to perfect the improved IFF functionality. This system is expected to be built into F-16s by 2012-2013
Unable to secure flight test permits from US military and civilian aviation authorities, Lockheed Martin appealed to the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Because these test were deemed to be of crucial importance for European countries that fly F-16s, the authorities granted permission for closely monitored flight tests to be conducted over the North Sea.
A further reason for the Americans to conduct the tests here was that the Netherlands, with its Orange Jumper aircraft, is the only country in Europe that has a test aircraft of this kind. The Orange Jumper is equipped with advanced recording devices that allow all the flight test data to be played back and processed. A Danish F-16 also participated in the test. The Orange Jumper, serving as the initiator, sent out a signal that the F-16, as ‘target’, responded to and vice versa.
A team of Americans (from Lockheed Martin, Edwards Air Force Base and the F-16 System Program Office) came to the Netherlands to oversee the tests. The Americans were extremely impressed with the collaborative effort, praising the speed with which the tests were able to be prepared and conducted by the Royal Dutch Air Force and the professional manner in which NLR supported the tests.
Foto credits: Frank Crebas, Bluelife Aviation