Data Acquisition System (DAS) Upgrade on an RNLAF F-16BM

Data Acquisition System (DAS) Upgrade on an RNLAF F-16BM

National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) is tasked with helping the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) instrument one of their 68 F-16’s. This F-16B MLU is known as the ‘Orange Jumper’ and it is unique as it functions as a fully operational asset that is certified and mission-ready even while fully instrumented for flight test applications. NLR has been flight-testing aircraft since 1920 and has an extensive set of capabilities in accommodating applications in their dedicated aircraft, modifying aircraft, planning and executing flight test campaigns, and aircraft certification. Flight test topics range from aerodynamics, flight mechanics, zero-gravity, atmosphere, airborne remote sensing, and flight test methods, to system tests, air traffic management, avionics, alternative fuel, flight inspection, and cold/ hot weather testing. 

The RNLAF has operated the Orange Jumper since 1999, preparing and performing test operations in close cooperation with NLR. The aircraft’s operational lifetime was extended in 2013 from 2015 to 2023. The flight test system installed on the F-16BM had however become obsolete as it was no longer being effectively supported by the vendor. This was leading to problems with being unable to properly maintain the system with parts no longer being available. This led NLR to select a new system, one that would meet the current and future needs of the Orange Jumper project. 

There were some unique requirements for this system as it was desired that the existing data acquisition units (DAU) could be installed in the same locations as the original equipment and use the same wiring. These choices were taken in order to minimize any modification to the aircraft and simplify installation. In order to best use the space available on the aircraft and to ensure it remained fully mission capable, it was necessary to utilize several remote locations for DAU installation. 

Met extended aircraft life requirements with minimal aircraft modifications 

Although the old system has been considerably exceeded in a number of ways by modern FTI systems, it remained very difficult for NLR to find any DAUs that could fit into the limited installation spaces typically available on any small jet aircraft. This was an important requirement for the customer as there could be a significant impact on the operational availability of the aircraft if heavy modifications were required. During the selection process, only data acquisition system products from Curtiss-Wright met the size and capability requirements that allowed NLR to replace the existing system without major aircraft modifications.

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