The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Weapons Survivability Lab recently received a P-8A Poseidon fuselage at China Lake, Calif., that will be used to verify the effectiveness of the aircraft’s fire suppression system.
“NAWCWD is the only range for doing live fire test and evaluation of this scale,” said Paul Gorish, WSL’s live fire test and evaluation lead for the P-8 work at China Lake.
The Poseidon is the Navy’s replacement for the P-3C Orion as a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations. The P-8A is based on a Boeing 737 airframe.
Gorish and his crew are currently modifying the 130-foot fuselage to make it more representative of an actual P-8A. Until now, the fuselage had been used as a static test article by Boeing in Seattle for the P-8A program.
The fuselage arrived with all the basic parts but the fire suppression systems had to be added. That build-up has taken almost four months to complete. Actual testing is expected to begin in late-summer, and continue for about eight months.
“This is the last live fire test and evaluation checkout for the P-8A,” Gorish said.
In 2005, the Navy and Boeing began performing live-fire testing on the systems that were going into P-8 during its development phase. Data from the tests were used to refine Boeing’s design of the fire suppression system. Those systems have been developed, manufactured and introduced into some of the test aircraft that are currently flying.
“Now, we are going to do a performance test of those systems,” Gorish said. “The goal of this testing is to show that we’ve eliminated the vulnerabilities that were previously identified.”
The work at China Lake includes testing the fuselage and each wing individually to verify the effectiveness of the fire suppression system. To do this, the test plan calls for shooting the wing fuel tanks and ensuring the fire suppression system puts out the fire. Another test requirement is to determine if the aircraft would remain flight worthy if the wing is damaged due to a ballistic engagement.
“The developmental phase testing was about ironing out what the system should do and how it would respond,” Gorish said. “This is a verification of the fire suppression system operating inside the aircraft with contractor-supplied hardware and software.”
After the testing is completed, Gorish will summarize the findings in a report that will be submitted to NAVAIR’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Office for release to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
“The work we are doing here to assess the survivability of the aircraft is extremely valuable because we check the vulnerabilities of the systems and mitigate or eliminate them,” Gorish said. “We want to make sure that when our warfighters go into harm’s way, they are going to return home safely.”