Shooting Missiles At Aircraft: Live Fire Test and Evaluation (LFT&E)

Live Fire Test and Evaluation


Live Fire Test and Evaluation
MANPAD Stay Fireplace Assessments on KC-46 and F-35 (Courtesy of Naval Air Warfare Middle Weapons Division)

Navy platforms have to endure Lifelike Survivability Testing.

Stay Fireplace Check & Analysis (LFT&E) is a part of an experimental testing process for navy procurement of methods and munitions, particularly of which addresses the USA Code Title 10, Part 2366; “Main methods and munitions packages: survivability testing and lethality testing required earlier than full-scale manufacturing”. That is one thing that covers each automobiles and munitions as nicely.

Thus, LFT&E is cut up in two, the place lined methods (similar to automobiles, weapon platforms, and standard weapon methods which can be designed to offer some extent of safety to customers in fight) are topic to Lifelike Survivability Testing. This exams for “vulnerability of the system in fight by firing munitions more likely to be encountered in fight (or munitions with a functionality just like such munitions) on the system configured for fight, with the first emphasis on testing vulnerability with respect to potential person casualties and taking into equal consideration the susceptibility to assault and fight efficiency of the system.”

Then again, missile packages or main munitions packages (a program that greater than 1,000,000 rounds are deliberate to be acquired) endure Lifelike Lethality Testing. These munitions are examined for “lethality by firing the munition or missile involved at applicable targets configured for fight”.

Every platform that undergoes LFT&E will ship two experiences to US Congress earlier than Full Price Manufacturing Choice is met. The Stay Fireplace Check & Analysis report and Past Low Price Preliminary Manufacturing Report is issued by the Director of Operational Check & Analysis and despatched on to US Congress, a few of that are made public after approval by the US Home of Representatives Committee on Armed Providers. The scope of testing can fluctuate vastly relying on totally different parameters similar to Stay Fireplace Check Sorts (Over Match Testing, Testing to Failure, Necessities Verification Testing, System Characterization Testing, Part vs System Testing, Statistical Testing, and Testing to Confirm Modes). Usually, LFT&E is supposed to offer a basic understanding of a platform’s survivability to sure adversary weapons, however the take a look at itself might solely contain one specific calibre of munition fired from a particular angle as a result of damaging nature of the take a look at.

To summarise, most plane platforms have to undergo Lifelike Survivability Testing earlier than coming into service within the US armed forces. On this article we are going to concentrate on the previous, diving deeper into latest plane procurements which have made their LFT&E experiences publicly out there. (A complete definition and description of the LFT&E course of may be discovered here printed by the US DOD Defence Acquisition College).

Transient historical past on Joint Stay Fireplace testing (JLF-Air)

Earlier than LFT&E turned a broadly tailored course of, reside fireplace weapons testing existed way back to the early days of WWII. The primary cases of such testing had been by an illustration the place M2 gentle tanks failed to resist .50 cal AP machine gun rounds. Probably the most notable occasion can be the GAU-8 A-10 Thunderbolt II cannon lethality exams. By way of Lifelike Survivability Testing, the necessity for such a program solely turned obvious within the early Seventies as a result of Vietnam Battle. Because of this the Check and Analysis of Plane Survivability (TEAS) program was born. The TEAS program would finally take a look at plane survivability of F-4 Phantoms, A-7 Corsairs and AH-1 Cobras. Focus later shifted to computational calculation till the Eighties when bodily testing was reintroduced for the V-22 and F/A-18 program. These days, the legacy of reside fireplace testing continues with the LFT&E requirement. Together with LFT&E, the Joint Stay Fireplace – Plane Techniques (JLF-Air) program is utilised to establish weak areas in plane platforms which can be already in service. Each packages are run by a joint workforce of US Military Aviation & Missile Command, USAF Aeronautical Techniques Middle, and US Navy Naval Air Techniques Command. The JLF-Air program has examined numerous present platform’s survivability to elevated fashionable fight threats similar to F/A-18C gasoline methods, CH-53E tail rotor methods and MQ-1 wing buildings. In the meantime LFT&E evaluated new aircrafts or specific variants earlier than they entered service. Not too long ago, KC-46 and F-35 airframes had been put to check towards missile threats in addition to the brand new C-5M and CH-53K variants previously.

LFT&E testing at Weapons Survivability Laboratory, China Lake

The MANPAD influence research have been performed at Naval Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, California by the Weapons Survivability Laboratory (WSL) below the Naval Air Warfare Middle Weapons Division (NAWCWD). The laboratory prises its contribution to the LFT&E program boasting contributions to A-12, P-7, F/A-18E/F, V-22, AH-1Z, UH-1Y, and MH-60R/S. There appears to be numerous take a look at stands to accommodate a variety of fastened wing and rotary plane. The Tremendous Excessive Velocity Airflow System (Tremendous HIVAS) is an open cycle nine-fan array that simulates inflight airflow situations over fastened wing plane that gives 500+ knots of wind over a 3.53m2 cross sectional space. For rotary plane testing, the Helicopter Hover Fixture supplies an elevated platform for simulated assaults from the underside of a helicopter. For simulated threats, an airgun referred to as the Missile Engagement Risk Simulator (METS) is used to launch a projectile. To simulate MANPAD impacts, the METS gun is loaded with a customized missile developed in-house to simulate the very best menace state of affairs potential.

KC-46 MANPAD take a look at

KC-46 LFT&E testing with customized made MANPAD missile (US Navy)

On April 7, 2015, a take a look at was commissioned for the LFT&E of the KC-46 tanker plane. On the request of the KC-46 program workplace, WSL developed a missile with customized warhead to symbolize the very best menace state of affairs the plane was anticipated to satisfy. The above picture was captured by a high-speed digital camera working at 100,000 frames per second. Word the golden ring on the white beam that serves because the aiming level of the missile. MANPADS or man-portable air-defence methods are largely IR homing missiles that lock on to an plane’s largest warmth signature, the engine exhaust. Though the total footage is but to be found, the NAWCWD public affairs workforce reported a “very profitable take a look at” had been performed.

KC-46 LFT&E take a look at setup with METS gun (left) and 767 wing and left engine (US Navy)

F-35 Full Up System Degree Testing

The F-35 was additionally examined for threats from numerous elements in an identical setup. Between October 2010 and September 2011, JSF take a look at article AA-1 was subjected to 25 ballistic exams. 16 of those 25 exams had been performed utilizing each the Tremendous HIVAS and METS gun with the plane’s engine working to simulate the flight situations of a high-speed chase. The varied array of exams included floor to air warhead fragments, AP projectiles, HE projectiles, and a MANPAD.

All three F-35 variants had been utilised to a sure diploma the place the CTOL variant AA-1 was used for Full-Up System Degree testing. The service variant F-35C (CG-1) was used as a Full Scale Structural Check Article as AA-1 was structurally non-representative of the ultimate manufacturing variant and solely carried the ultimate system structure. F-35B housing the Elevate Fan meant that BG-1’s propulsion system needed to endure ballistic testing individually. Because of this, solely the F-35A AA-1 has take a look at footage of a direct influence out there. Amongst many various standards, results of dry bay fires on flight crucial gear had been evaluated throughout this testing in addition to simulated pilot-in-the-loop publish harm flight traits through a distant take a look at management stand.

Screenshot of video reveals highspeed influence and detonation of MANPAD

With an identical setup because the KC-46 experiment, a small aligning ring may be seen the place the missile goes via after being shot by the METS airgun. Based on WSL, the reside fireplace exams wasn’t restricted to rear influence, and experiences recommend head-on exams had been additionally performed. In brief, the lengthy testing part proved the strong nature of the F-35’s flight crucial methods and the On Board Inert Gasoline Producing System (OBIGGS) taking part in a key position in fireplace containment.

Different plane with printed LFT&E testing outcomes

Most lately, in 2018 the CH-53K was subjected to reside fireplace LFT&E earlier than Preliminary Operational Functionality (IOC) was declared for the brand new variant in April 2022. Because of the USMC’s program price range, the testing was cut up into two phases. The primary Section-I testing performed between 2013 – 2018 centered on finishing the minimal Operational Necessities Doc and Air Automobile Specification, satisfying LFT&E objectives similar to engines and rotors towards reside fireplace. The secondary Section-II between 2019 – 2021 aimed to check extra superior threats similar to tail meeting controls and hydraulics towards assaults.

Other than this, it’s identified that the C-5M needed to undergo LFT&E for its new wing to evaluate harm within the modern dry bays for fireplace hazards. In contrast to more moderen circumstances, a pre-existing wing part from a retired C-5 was used as no additional airframes had been deliberate to be produced for the improve in 2004.

Whereas damaging testing of such plane could also be an thrilling rarity, it must be understood that years of preparation goes into simulation and calculation of such outcomes earlier than it’s lastly validated. Aside from being a part of the arduous US navy procurement course of, LFT&E additionally supplies customers an added sense of reduction via a licensed diploma of security.



Wonwoo is a scholar journalist and contributor to The Aviationist based mostly in London, United Kingdom. At present finding out MEng in Aeronautical Engineering with a eager curiosity in OSINT, aircraft recognizing and plane design. He’s a former Sergeant of the Republic of Korea Military, having served as an artillery Fireplace Course Centre Automobile Radio Operator.


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