Defense

April 16, 2012

New jet engine test cells under construction at Tinker

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by Mike W. Ray
Tinker AFB, Okla.
Air Force photograph
This T-9 jet-engine test cell at Aviano Air Base, Italy, was "retired," disassembled and transported to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., where it will be erected on a pad near a building on the base.

Two more jet-engine test cells are under construction at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

According to Mason Hopkins, Engine Test Program Manager with the 76th Propulsion Maintenance Group, one of the structures will provide depot testing capability for the F135 engine, the power plant in the F-35 Lightning II jet fighter that is replacing the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The “T-9″ test cells also will be used to test F108-100 engines and F101-102 engines after they are repaired by the 76 PMXG, Hopkins said.

A construction company has already built the concrete pads on which the two test cells will rest, he said, and also is building a nearby 300-square-foot administration building, connecting sidewalks, an access road, a fuel supply system, utilities infrastructure and a parking area.

The T-9s will be “recycled” testing facilities previously used at other bases but no longer required at those locations. Consequently, they recently were dismantled and transported to Tinker. One came from the Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, while the other came from Cannon AFB near Clovis, N.M.

Portions of both buildings have been refurbished, Mr. Hopkins said. For example, new acoustic pillows to absorb noise and heat from the jet engines have been replaced in the augmentor tube section of the T-9 from Cannon AFB, and several of the acoustic wall panels have been reconditioned.

Reassembly of theT-9s should be completed in June, and equipment and testing systems should be fully installed by the end of August, Hopkins indicated.

The prime contractor on the relocation and renovation project also is fabricating a special thrust frame, which braces the engines during testing.

Since standard T-9 adapters for F101s and F108s were unavailable, and new ones are expensive – $2.5 million or more – Ron Morris from 76 PMXG Test Cell Engineering suggested having the contractor fabricate these specialized thrust frames in the T-9s. This allows 76 PMXG to utilize existing engine-specific adapters, saving $2 million, and helping standardize testing equipment, processes, procedures and maintenance, Mr. Hopkins said.

The contractor also will provide fuel delivery systems, air start systems, and oil preservation systems for the test cells.

The two new structures are projected to be ready for engine tests sometime in 2013.

Another related project under way is an upgrade of the engine test operating system, which was developed internally by the 76th Software Maintenance Group. 76 SMXG will equip the T-9s with the upgrade, Pacer Comet 4.

The new system provides fully automated data acquisition – information such as fan speeds, internal engine temperatures, fuel consumption, oil pressures, and other performance standards – during engine tests, Hopkins said. Pacer Comet 4 also greatly improves data acquisition accuracy and fidelity, increases test cell availability, and reduces labor and hardware costs associated with operating system sustainment, he said.

Tinker currently has 10 operational test cells, all of which are concrete structures.

Six of them are smaller cells that were built in the 1950s, records show. Those cells are used to test repaired TF33-102C, TF33-103 and F100-220 engines, Hopkins said.

The other four operational cells were built in the early 1970s. Those cells are used to test F110s, F101-102s, F108s, F117, F118-100 and TF33-100 engines.

 




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