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US Air Force Looks at Rain Erosion

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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At the beginning of the month, the United States Air Force Research Laboratory announced it would be investing $60 million into the research and development of an improved anti-corrosion coatings for aircrafts.

The five-year investment also includes upgrading its Supersonic Rain Erosion Test Rig (SuRE) at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, maintained and operated by the University of Dayton Research Institute in Ohio.

According to the university, SuRE has been used as the national and international standard for testing the rain erosion resistance of a variety of aerospace materials and coatings since 1967 and was originally developed under contract by Continuum Dynamics.

The 8-foot-diameter machine reportedly uses a rotating arm and 96 calibrated needles to simulate flight in a 1-inch per hour rainfall. Tested materials can be analyzed at transonic and supersonic speeds up to Mach 2.3 (650 miles per hour), and is recorded in real-time video where it can further be monitored and allow for “time to failure” testing.

U.S Air Force / Greg Lanchman

At the beginning of the month, the United States Air Force Research Laboratory announced it would be investing $60 million into the research and development of an improved anti-corrosion coatings for aircrafts.

Matt Rothgeb, group leader for coatings, corrosion and erosion at UDRI and principal investigator for the new program said, “One of the most important ways to help extend the life of an aircraft is to prevent damage from corrosion and erosion.

“We’ve led research, development, testing and evaluation of coatings and corrosion-prevention technologies for nearly 20 years, so we’ve seen first-hand the effects corrosive damage can have on the safety, affordability, and availability of aerospace systems across the Air Force and the aerospace community as a whole. Aircraft coatings are critical to mitigating corrosion and erosion of structural components.”

The Air Force Research Laboratory reports that organic improvements to the rain rig include introducing flexibility to the executed erosion pattern, replacing the current control hardware with a highly adaptable and capable LabVIEW (type of control hardware and software platform from NITM) interface and automating secondary operations.

Improvements made to the full control system are expected to save approximately $40,000 annually in sustainment costs and will reduce the manpower required to run a test by one-third and maintenance downtime by 25%.

“This has been a great opportunity to apply a personal interest in control and automation to a very powerful tool,” said First Lt. Tyler Despard, lead engineer for the upgrade. “I am excited to deliver the final product for use by the organizations that test with us and confident that they will find a renewed value in testing with the SuRE and enjoy the new flexibility to tailor their exposure plan to exact patterns and speeds. I am grateful to the Corrosion and Erosion Team for entrusting me with this responsibility and providing the resources necessary to make this a one-of-a-kind, world-class facility.”

The SuRE is operated by UDRI as part of the larger AFRL Impact Erosion Test Facility. A Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the U. S. Air Force allows UDRI to provide easy access for commercial and government customers. Full-service testing is provided to dozens of joint, international, and commercial customers each year.


Tagged categories: Aerospace; aircraft; Coating Materials; Erosion; Industrial coatings; NA; North America; Protective Coatings; Rain resistance; Research; Research and development; U.S. Air Force

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