The Goodyear Heritage

 - November 17, 2013, 1:15 AM
Two Sabreliner 60s and a Navajo Chieftain are operated by Flight Test Services at Goodyear. In this photo, one of the Sabreliners has a modified nose radome, while the other carries a belly-mounted all-purpose flight-test radome.

Just outside Phoenix, Arizona, Lockheed Martin’s Goodyear facility is a key provider of ISR capabilities. The facility was first developed by Goodyear Aerospace, a subsidiary of the tire company that had developed farms in the area to provide cotton for the belts in its tires. The company built Corsair fighters in World War II, and airships.

After the war, the first patent for synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) was filed from here in 1953, and the laser beam recorder for optical processing of radar data was also invented. The site has since produced more than 500 SARs that have been installed on over 30 different aircraft. These include the original Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System (ASARS) for the SR-71 Blackbird.

Goodyear eventually sold the Arizona facility to Loral, from whom Lockheed Martin acquired it in 1996. Today, there are nearly 1,000 employees specializing in radars, exploitation systems and sensor flight-testing. “They are very well-educated, very technical and adaptable to problem-solving,” said Brent Lipson, director of sensor processing, during AIN’s visit to the site earlier this year.

The latest radars to emerge from Goodyear include Phoenix Eye, an X-band sensor offering three SAR modes plus two GMTI (Ground Moving Target Indicator) modes; Tracer, a VHF/UHF SAR that exploits low frequencies to detect targets obscured by foliage; and ASARS-3, a Ku-band SAR that offers superior resolution and is apparently derived from a classified program.

A fleet of five flight-test aircraft is based at Goodyear. The largest is the Airborne Multi-Int Laboratory (AML), a Gulfstream III, which has been away from its home base for a while now. Following its conversion from a business jet, the AML did demonstration tours before the Italian air force hired it on a one-year contract to develop ISR concepts of operation and validate future requirements (the Italians have ordered the Gulfstream-jet based Conformal Airborne Early Warning System (CAEW) from IAI-Elta). LM’s contract has since been extended. It provides the pilots and maintainers, while the Italians provide the sensor operators and mission planners.

Two Sabreliner 60 jets and one Navajo Chieftain twin-turboprop remain at Goodyear. They all have FAA experimental certificates. “We are a true R&D flight-test center, and can accommodate a wide range of sensors and communications systems,” Anson Grey, director of operations, said. The Sabreliners have extended pitot tubes so that the nose outer mold line can be modified to accept new sensors. Experimental payloads can also be carried externally in pods. “We ship standard 19-inch avionics racks to customers for them to outfit,” Grey added. Over the years (the Sabreliners were acquired in 1970 and 1979), these aircraft have tested munitions guidance packages, navigation systems, and missile airframes, as well as ISR sensors and communications systems.

These aircraft are available for third-party work from government customers. But Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has been the main recent “customer.” One of the Sabreliners flight-tested the Electro-Optic Targeting System (EOTS) for the F-35. The key point is, these aircraft cost about $12,000 for a 2.5-hour flight, versus maybe $50,000 for an F-16.