Airborne Testbeds


With more than 70 years of experience in airborne Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, Calspan has modified and configured a fleet of airborne testbeds to support cost-effective flight testing of airborne components and systems for manned and unmanned aircraft. Our experienced staff has designed our testbeds to be modular, making it simple and straightforward for customers to bring their equipment on-board, fly, and get the data they need.

These airborne testbeds are aircraft uniquely configured to carry experimental and prototype airborne systems.  All Calspan airborne testbeds have been modified with mechanical, electrical power and aircraft state data installation provisions to allow us to efficiently install customer’s systems, flight test and provide data in the shortest timeframe possible.  Common installations on the G-III platform include an underbelly pod, SATCOM systems, and other external stores.

Calspan airborne testbeds have recently been used to test:



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Gulfstream G-III

Calspan has responded to the growing need for large-scale testing of avionics, radar and sensor systems by developing a testbed based on a Gulfstream G-III aircraft. This system is specifically designed to handle large Fire Control Radars, Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR) sensors, and heavy external stores such as underbelly pods.

  • Useful load of 5,600 lbs. for aircrew, test equipment and airborne systems
  • Large performance envelope with long range and endurance (3,400 NM, 7 hours)
  • Main cabin is equipped with full length seat rails to accommodate up to (8) full Flight Engineer (FTE) work stations, each including a 19 inch equipment rack, seat, electrical power and aircraft state data provisions
    • Roll-on, roll-off capability
    • Can be reconfigured in days
    • Equipment mounting to seat rails
  • Centerline pylon capable of carrying external stores
    • 2,500-lb. carrying capacity
    • Pylon wired and compatible with BRU-32, MAU-12 or MAU-40 ejector racks
    • Nominal 48-inch ground clearance from bottom of fuselage
  • Common Systems Radome on upper fuselage for SATCOM antenna testing
  • External 120 kW external cooling capability
  • Universal radar mount in nose.
    • Accepts up to 40-inch diameter antenna
    • Unique radome fabrication
  • ARINC 429 data available in main cabin
    • Flight Management System
    • Inertial Data
    • Air Data
  • Electrical power distribution
    • 28 VDC, 60 and 400 Hz AC readily available in main cabin
    • Dedicated power switch for testbed equipment
  • Programmable autopilot
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Variable Stability Learjets continue the legacy of In-Flight Simulation (IFS) at Calspan. Each aircraft is equipped with a programmable Fly-by-Wire Flight Control System (i.e., Variable Stability System) that allows for modification of the dynamics of the base Learjet airframe. While the aircraft have been used for manned aircraft handling qualities evaluations for decades, the programmable nature of the VSS allows the aircraft to be used as UAV surrogates to test the latest in unmanned aircraft technologies.
  • 3- or 4-Degree-of-Freedom simulation capability
    • Pitch, Roll, Yaw, Thrust
  • Performance
    • Maximum airspeed: 325 KIAS/0.65 Mach
    • Angle of attack limits: -5° to +10°
    • Maximum load factors: +0.15g to +2.8g
    • Lateral acceleration limits: 0.3g
    • Maximum sideslip limits: +/-10°
  • Max Flight Duration: ~2.0 Hr
  • Can go to actual touchdown on simulation system
  • Crew Size (4):
    • 1 Calspan Safety Pilot
    • 1 customer Evaluation Pilot/Observer
    • 2 Flight Test Engineers (Calspan and/or customer)
  • Electrical power distribution
    • 28 VDC, 60 and 400 Hz AC readily available in main cabin
    • Dedicated power switch for testbed equipment


Calspan customers that engage our expertise in In-Flight Simulation receive innumerable benefits, including:
  • Conducting evaluations in a real flight environment that includes fully representative motion cues and real-world visual cues
  • Augmenting their test teams with our experienced test pilots, who can fly and evaluate designs
  • Evaluating aircraft early in the design process, as soon as a stability and control model exists
  • Gaining the ability to find and correct deficiencies before fabrication of the actual aircraft begins
  • Taking advantage of safety features that include:
    • An on-board safety pilot to monitor aircraft response who is ready to take control at the push of a button
    • An Automatic Safety Trip System that monitors aircraft limits to prevent unsafe flight conditions from occurring