F-35 Radar Cross Section Facility

F-35 Radar Cross Section Facility

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Client: Lockheed Martin Aerospace Co.

The Radar Cross Section facility is a test facility for the Joint Strike Fighter’s special coatings. Once the aircraft emerges from the final finish facility, its special coatings must be tested for effectiveness and completeness. The setting for testing the aircraft must simulate the plane’s environment in a combat situation.

The facility is a 90-foot-high, 60,000-square-foot hangar. Aircraft are towed into the hangar, positioned onto a 40-foot-diameter turntable, and hoisted 30 feet off the ground.

Special coatings are used on the turntable, walls and ceiling of the facility to confine the radar’s energy. This coating had a reflective quality that did not allow radar to absorb into the walls and structure, creating false readings. Radar absorbing materials were used in the facility in certain locations to absorb radar energy. The design also required special construction methods to minimize physical discontinuities, which are known to adversely affect testing. Another critical design goal was to eliminate potential vibrations from environmental elements such as wind and thunder.