A CTF project involved testing an improved navigation system for the F-117A. That system was a prerequisite on all deployed F-117As. The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works delivered the first F-117A configured with a new navigation system to the 49th Fighter Wing in January 1997. Dubbed "RNIP-Plus," the Ring Laser Gyro/Global Positioning System Navigation Improvement Program reduces the drift pilots experience during flight. Drift is when an aircraft's navigation system wanders off its intended flight path -- a computer problem in the older Inertial Navigation Systems. Not only does the RNIP-Plus boost navigation, it also strengthens the F-117A's targeting capability. The configuration includes a new control display navigation unit in the cockpit allowing the pilot to quickly reference and check flight data. The control display also collects and stores maintenance data on the INS and GPS, a plus for post-mission maintenance.
In another project, F-117A experts tested a real-time information into the cockpit capability for the Nighthawk that would allow real-time communication with the outside world while the plane is in stealth mode. This capability includes integration of a new real-time symmetric multi-processor, which allows onboard mission planning at faster computation times than current ground mission planning. If this new technology was put into the aircraft, the pilot would have the ability to adjust his mission based on changing threats and targets, a capability previously unavailable.
With a goal to obtain MK-84 and BLU-109 Joint Direct Attack Munitions weapons certification for the F-117A Nighthawk aircraft, the Seek Eagle Office at Eglin AFB, Fla., sponsored a weapons separation test in AEDC's 4-foot transonic aerodynamic wind tunnel. Additional test customers included Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, manufacturer of the F-117A, and Boeing, St. Louis, manufacturer of the JDAM weapons system.
Lockheed-Martin Aero modified nine F-117 aircraft per year at its Palmdale facility. The Air Force thinking initially was that it would phase out the Nighthawks after 2018.
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