RCS Measurement Facility
Boeing Phantom Works, St. Louis, Missouri

Boeing Bird of Prey technology demonstrator in the PhantomWorks Near Field Test Facility.
    Boeing photo by Peter George

Boeing’s Near Field Test Facility (NFTF) is an innovative indoor near field RCS measurement facility for analysis of aircraft parts, models, and full-scale production aircraft. The system operates over the 0.2 to 18.0 GHz range. In addition to supporting ongoing development programs and special projects, the NFTF plays a critical role in F/A-18E/F Super Hornet production. A sample of approximately 25% of new production aircraft undergoes a detailed evaluation in the NFTF to verify the airplane's radar cross section.

As part of a system upgrade, The Howland Company developed a range geometry design including a unique antenna enclosure and aperture to minimize chamber wall, floor, and ceiling illumination; antenna layout; and RF absorber fence design. The project also included a self-propelled field probe. The design effort included a tradeoff study for the range geometry layout and a detailed field distribution analysis to optimize the aperture design for the required target zone size. We also designed a system add-on to permit low-frequency RCS measurements.

     
QF-16   Boeing F-15E1 'Silent Eagle' prototype in the Near Field RCS Test Facility. (Note: This image was modified by Boeing to conceal some senstive aspects of the NFTF design.)
Boeing photo by Peter George and Rich Rau    Boeing photo by Peter George
 

Most of the projects the Near Field Test Facility supports are not publicized; the photos on this page illustrate three examples which have been declassified. The Boeing Bird of Prey technology demonstrator (top) validated a number of advances in aerodynamics, materials, production techniques, and low-observable "stealth" technology. The F-16 (left) was used to measure antenna patterns and changes to the baseline F-16 RCS after installation of Drone-Peculiar Equipment (DPE) added to surplus F-16s to convert them into unmanned QF-16 target drones. Boeing was awarded the contract to convert as many as 125 retired F-16s into QF-16s. The F-15 (right) is the Boeing-owned F-15E1 testbed aircraft, modified to the Silent Eagle low-RCS version, with canted tails, internal weapons carraige, and other treatments to lower the F-15's frontal aspect RCS to levels comparable to fifth-generation fighers.

 
     
 

A Boeing video showing the Bird of Prey technology
demonstrator in flight and on the Near Field Test Facility turntable:

To download a Windows Media Player version of the video,
right click here and select "Save Target As...".  (wmv file, 3.5MB)

 

 
  For more information on the NFTF, see Paul J. De Groot and
Melba Westerhold, "Boeing Near Field Test Facility (NFTF)
Upgrades & Design Tradeoffs," presented at the annual
meeting of the Antenna Measurement Techniques Association
(AMTA), Monterey, California, 4-8 October 1999.