NASA's F-18 #853 is a former Navy F/A-18A fighter plane modified by Armstrong technicians that now performs research duties. This workhorse in the NASA fleet demonstrates its versatility by serving in many capacities:
Tier 1-Testbed: Vehicle that is used to integrate experiments (test fixtures, sensors, subsystems) that are minimally intrusive to flight control systems. "The vehicle carries the experiment."
- Fiber Optic Wing Shape Sensor; flight research phase
Tier 2 -Disciplinary / System Research Aircraft: Vehicle that is used to focus the validation of discipline specific or system (multi-disciplinary) specific research elements that require extensive modification to the flight control systems, vehicle structure, and vehicle operation. "The vehicle is highly modified by the experiment."
- Adaptive Flight Controls
Tier 3 - Research Aircraft: Vehicles that are developed or extensively modified to validate new vehicle configurations, integrated vehicle designs, and high-performance research objectives. "The vehicle is the experiment."
- X-53 Active Aeroelastic Wing (F-18 TN 853)