Defense

July 14, 2017
 

AEDC: 25 years of supporting the warfighter for AFMC

A model of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, more commonly known as “The Warthog” due to its unique shape, underwent a pressure-sensitive paint (PSP) test in Arnold Engineering Development Complex’s (AEDC) 16-foot transonic wind tunnel. PSP was used to obtain surface pressure data on the model. The photo above shows a rear view of the A-10 model during testing in 16T. The A-10 is the only U.S. Air Force aircraft designed to be specifically used for close air support. The aircraft is notorious for its maneuverability at low speeds and low altitudes and its accurate weapons delivery.

With more than two decades now under its wing, Air Force Materiel Command has provided 25 years of support to America’s war fighters.

Since the dedication of the AFMC July 1, 1992, the Arnold Engineering Development Complex at Arnold AFB, Tenn., an Air Force Test Center organization, has played a major role in war fighter development.

Headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, the command is based on the concept of Integrated Weapons System Management. This concept enables one command to provide “cradle to grave” development and support for weapon systems and gives Air Force operational commands a single source of expertise and support for their aerospace systems.

AFMC is responsible for weapon systems such as aircraft, missiles and spacecraft that are developed and acquired through AFMC’s product centers, using science and technologies developed at their affiliated laboratories. The systems are then tested at the command’s test centers and are serviced, overhauled and modified at its air logistics centers. At the end of their service lives, aircraft are retired to AFMC’s storage and reclamation facility in Arizona.

AFMC also provides support to other U.S. military services and allies in addition to its responsibility of handling major aerospace projects for the DOD.

AEDC is one of the main test and evaluation organizations for the AFMC’s AFTC. Based out of Arnold AFB, AEDC also has operating locations at the Federal Research Center at White Oak near Silver Spring, Md.; at Ames Research Center, in Mountain View, and at Edwards AFB, Calif.; Eglin AFB, Fla.; Holloman AFB and Kirtland AFB, N.M.; and at Wright-Patterson AFB. AEDC offers a suite of test capabilities to simulate speed, temperature, pressure and other parameters over a wide range to meet the needs of aerospace system developers.

The Complex has provided AFMC with 25 years of testing the latest warfighters, such as the Air Force’s F-22A Raptor and its Pratt & Whitney F119 engine, and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine.

Accelerated Mission Testing (AMT) of the F135-PW-100 Conventional Take Off and Landing/Carrier Variant (CTOL/CV) has taken place in the sea level test cells at Arnold Air Force Base. The F135 engine has been tested at Arnold since 1999.

Testing in the AEDC aerodynamic wind tunnels have even helped prepare the Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for its first external weapons release. It’s been estimated that the 1/15th scale Lockheed Martin F-35 model has been tested in the AEDC 4-foot transonic wind tunnel for more than 3,300 user occupancy hours.

In addition, store separation testing of the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile has been conducted in AEDC wind tunnels. Separation testing of the ASRAAM, also known as the AIM-132, with the F-35 was last performed in the 4-foot transonic aerodynamic wind tunnel at the Propulsion Wind Tunnel facility in 2008. The test objective was to investigate the separation characteristics of several armaments, which included the AIM-132 as well as the AIM-9X, AIM-120C, AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapon, GBU-32 (1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition) and Paveway IV, from internal and external weapons stations of the Short Take-off and Vertical Landing and Carrier Variant versions of the JSF aircraft. Test data included store freestream, pseudo-freestream (i.e. aircraft model in tunnel), aerodynamic grid, captive trajectory and captive loads. Results from the test have supported internal and external weapons separation characteristic evaluations and structural analyses for various aircraft weapons loadings.

The Air Force’s Global Hawk and Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle have also used AEDC latest technology for test before flight, such as Pressure Sensitive Paint technology. The B-2 Spirit bomber is another that has undergone store separation testing to validate conventional weapons in the AEDC Propulsion Wind Tunnel facility.

Other aircraft tested in AEDC test facilities over the years include A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-105 Thunderchief, F-111 Aardvark, F-117A Nighthawk, C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III, C-141Starlifter, B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, B-58 Hustler, X-15, X-29, X-32 and X-33, X-35, XB-70 Valkyrie.




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