The research aircraft, NASA tail number 837, is pre-production TF-15A number 1 (USAF S/N 71-0290), on loan to NASA from the Air Force. The aircraft was used previously for the F-15 S/MTD (Short Takeoff and Landing/Maneuver Technology Demonstrator) program. The aircraft is highly modified and is not representative of production F-15 aircraft. It was selected to serve as the research testbed for the ACTIVE program because of the flexibility of its unique quad-redundant,
digital-fly-by-wire, flight and propulsion control system.
- Canards: Canards are control surfaces located in front of the main wing. This aircraft is easily distinguishable from other F-15 aircraft because of its canards. The canards were installed for the U.S. Air Force S/MTD program in the late 1980s. These additional lifting surfaces offer greater maneuverability and load capability. These canards are modified F-18 horizontal tail surfaces. When delfected together (collectively), the canards provide pitch (up and down) control.
When deflected opposite from each othe (differentially -- one up, one down), they provide directional (side-to-side) control.
- F-15E crew station: Prior to the S/MTD program, this aircraft was modified as the avionics testbed for the F-15E Strike Eagle program. This cockpit configuration offers programmable Muti-Purpose Displays (MPD) for both crew members.
- Quad digital flight controllers: The flight controllers are the heart of the fly-by-wire system on this aircraft. These four systems receive pilot commands with other aircraft data, like airspeed, altitude and angle of attack. Using this information, the controllers then calculate the best way to achieve the performance desired by the pilot.
- Dual-channel nozzle controllers: The nozzle controllers orchestrate the vectoring system as desired by the flight control computers, while incorporating vector load limiting logic to ensure safe operation throughout the flight envelope.
- Tri-channel VMS computer: The Vehicle Management System (VMS) computer hosts any research control laws and serves as a watchdog during flight testing. The VMS prohibits the aircraft from exceeding any preset performance limits and ensures safety during testing.
- Electronic air inlet controllers: These computers determine the optimum engine inlet configuration for the aircraft during flight and constantly adjust the engine inlets for maximum performance.
- F100-PW-229 IPE engines: These Pratt & Whitney engines are also found in production F-15E Strike Eagles. They deliver about 29,000 lbs. of static thrust a piece. ACTIVE's 229s are equipped with Improved Digital Electronic Engine Controllers (IDEEC).
- P/YBBN: The P/YBBN, or Pitch Yaw Balance Beam Nozzle, provides up to 20 degrees of thrust vectoring in any direction. These nozzles are mounted to the stock F100-299 engines and are only slightly heavier than the standard 229 nozzles.