Weapons Division F-22 Team Successfully Integrates AIM-9M Sidewinder



May 24, 2006

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Released by Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake Public Affairs Office --

By Cheryl Polley, NAWCWD F-22 IPT, and Linda Lou Crosby, Wyle NSSC

The F-22 advanced tactical fighter gets its first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability from integrated avionics, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake/Point Mugu F-22 Integrated Product Team helped deliver its punch.

The F-22 Raptor (the replacement for the F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighter) entered service with the U.S. Air Force in December 2005. A multi-site, cross-functional, highly trained Navy team at NAWCWD China Lake and Point Mugu made sure the F-22 would fly with an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile in its weapons bays.

The F-22 is a sleek, highly advanced aircraft constructed of 39% titanium, 24% composite, 16% aluminum and 1% thermoplastic by weight. It combines stealth design with the supersonic, highly maneuverable, dual-engine, long-range requirements of an air-to-air fighter.

How did the Navy get involved with an Air Force platform? In the mid-80’s, the Navy intended to buy a carrier version of the Advanced Tactical Fighter (as the F-22 pre-source selection program was called), and NAWCWD was deeply involved in that acquisition until its cancellation at the end of the cold war. NAWCWD continued to support the Air Force-only F-22 in the areas of AIM-9M integration (NAWCWD’s special expertise) and flight test support over Navy ranges. Although Lockheed Martin Corporation is the prime contractor for the F-22, the company, in turn, used the services of other contractors, such as Raytheon, and also government teams, such as the F-22 IPT, to get work done. “When Lockheed wanted technical expertise for the AIM-9M Sidewinder missile, they looked to the Weapons Division,” said NAWCWD F-22 IPT deputy lead Pete Chmelir. The Weapons Division has a rich history of weapons integration and success with the Sidewinder missile.

The team conducted flight tests over both China Lake and Point Mugu ranges. Having a multi-site team, which really meant the deputy of the product team was at Point Mugu while most everybody else was at China Lake, did have its challenges. “I was really the only one not in residence there (at China Lake),” added Chmelir. “However, because I spent much of my work experience at China Lake, I knew the individuals and capabilities that were essential for building a cohesive team. But, more importantly, most of the people knew me through prior work relationships and a level of trust was available from the start.”

Because of multiple levels of expertise, team accomplishments included telemetry development, missile modification in preparation for flight tests, structural, environmental, and trajectory analysis, and weapons system performance. With cost savings a focus, it was important to help the program recover from incorrect wind tunnel modeling by providing an analytical fix. By eliminating the need to re-do wind tunnel tests, the program saved costly rework.

Mike Keeter, NAWCWD’s F-22 IPT Leader, is proud of the team’s hard work. “We brought a can-do attitude towards accomplishing complex tests. We consistently got the job done with minimum resources and with great appreciation from our customer. We also brought several lifetimes' worth of China Lake/Pt Mugu experience to AIM-9 performance, integration and test support problems.”

Rich Perrine, Jr., lead technician for Sidewinder support, shared his experience. “It was great to be part of proving the AIM-9M missile was safe and functional for the new F-22 Raptor. One of the things we encountered early on was very tight security. Occasionally, we were confronted by machine gun wielding security units during drills or alarm situations at Edwards Air Force Base. This always underscored the fact that we were working on a very important and high-tech program.”

Although there were differences in the Air force approach and the Navy way of doing business, those differences often became plusses. “The Air Force was always grateful for the expertise we brought to the table,” said Chmelir, “anticipating the next set of questions or problems and solving them before they became crises. Working with the contractors was enlightening. We were able to both learn from and teach each other to provide a better final answer. Many times throughout the program, the only answer was an integrated response requiring close working relationships and trust.”

Brad Royer, Associate Department Head for Systems Engineering, talked about the focus on quality and the stewardship approach taken by the F-22 IPT. “These people came together in every way to bring about a superb result,” Royer said. “This was a contractor, government, multi-service, multi-site effort, with an immensely successful result. I am really proud of this team.”

When integrating a highly complex weapons system onto an aircraft such as the F-22, a main area of concern is ensuring commands from the aircraft are effectively sent to the missile, and that the missile responds appropriately. Much of this was done during ground tests with equipment designed by Sidewinder personnel. “This was demanding work at times, but quite exciting and fun work for technicians and engineers alike,” added Perrine. “It was great to see everyone from the F-22 and Sidewinder communities pull together. This was, yet, one more iteration of proving the AIM-9M Sidewinder to be an effective, inexpensive, hardy and necessary weapon for today's warfighter.”

Chmelir added, “Our goal was to never be the reason for a missed sortie. I'm proud of the fact that we accomplished that goal. Despite the numerous last minute requirement changes and many challenging expectations, we were always a part of the solution, not the problem.” One particular incident stands out. A very rare AIM-9M hardware failure resulted in the missile flying in front of the F-22 after launch. Without the advanced analytical tools that NAWCWD brought to the task, the program may have never solved the riddle of why the missile performed as it did, and would have cost a significant interruption in the flight test program. However, NAWCWD analysts and missile technicians discovered and replicated the problem in the lab, and found a preventive measure that got flight tests back underway.

Recently, the Air Force praised the work of all members of the NAWCWD F-22 IPT, noting that individual and collective efforts significantly contributed to the successful development and introduction of the F-22 Raptor, and citing the team as a great credit to the U.S. Navy.


AIM-9M Sidewinder separation test firing from an F-22 over NAWCWD Sea Range, Pt. Mugu, Calif. U.S. Air Force photo.

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