Flying Infrared Signatures Technology Aircraft
FISTA II began in 1994 when the Air Force Research Laboratory at Hanscom AFB obtained funding to move the original FISTA program from an A model KC-135 aircraft, which was retired in 1993, to an E model KC-135, then based at Wright-Patterson AFB. SDL played an important role in preparing and implementing the aircraft modification, which was completed by May 1995 when the first test flights took place. The FISTA II aircraft then moved to Edwards AFB where it performed three roles: a range tanker, host of the precision refueling boom, and site of the FISTA II program.
During FISTA II, SDL participated in a number of field measurement programs to collect and analyze missile and rocket plume signatures, including the following:
- OT&E Flight Tests of Models with F-16C Aircraft (1997)
- Multiple Flight Tests in Support of RAMOS Program (1997 - 1999)
- Flight Tests in Support of F-22 IR Signature Program (1998)
- Leonid Meteor Measurements (1998, 1999)
- Measurements of Static and In-Flight Rocket Engines (2002)
- Large Aircraft IR Signature Measurements (2003)
The Leonid meteor measurements included spectacular views of the 1999 meteor shower over southern Europe, as well as the first reported observations of lightning “sprites” over Europe. The flight tests in support of the RAMOS program, involved pathfinder data collections of clouds using a mid- to long-wave infrared sensor (“Aquameter”) developed by the Russian participants on RAMOS, and a Hyperspectral Imaging Polarimeter (HIP) developed at SDL. Russian crew members from the Vavilov State Optical Institute in St Petersburg participated in these very successful flights and subsequent joint research.
FISTA activity with aircraft targets increased in 2004 with the success of detailed air-to-air measurements of a number of large commercial aircraft and equivalents. SDL provided flight planning, sensors, and crew for these tests. SDL also performed data reduction and analysis in support of signature model development. These models can be used to support various methods of early missile launch detection and tracking.
In September 2004 the FISTA II aircraft was retired as part of the Air Force move away from the older E model KC-135 aircraft.