Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Heat is buckling the flight decks of Navy ships; this looks like a job for the thermal management experts

Posted by John Keller

Every now and then I run across things that although they have little, if anything, to do with aerospace and defense electronics, still stop me in my tracks. Here's one I tripped over this morning: did you know the hot exhaust from the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft is buckling the flight decks of the Navy's big-deck amphibious assault ships?

I didn't either, but this phenomenon hasn't escaped the attention of thermal management materials experts at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va. (story continues below video)

It seems the V-22 "has resulted in ship flight deck buckling that has been attributed to the excessive heat impact from engine exhaust plumes," according to a broad agency announcement (BAA-10-10) issued this week from the DARPA Strategic Technology Office.

I suppose Navy leaders could deal with hot gas plumes from the V-22; what really worries them, however, is the future deployment of the vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) versions of the future F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which experts say could really cause some problems on the decks of aircraft carriers and the big-deck amphibs.

Too muck buckling caused by the V-22 and the F-35, and these flight decks are going to fail. DARPA has a nice way of explaining this.

"Navy studies have indicated that repeated deck buckling will likely cause deck failure before planned ship life. With the upcoming deployment of the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), it is anticipated that the engine exhaust plumes may have a more severe thermo-mechanical impact on the non-skid surface and flight deck structure of ships," according to today's BAA.

Worse, nobody knows what to do about this problem, except to build new flight decks, which would be expensive, to say the last.

Instead, DARPA is looking around industry to see of anyone knows how to use thermal-management technologies and materials to build a non-skid, heat-resistant veneer that could fit over the flight decks of the carriers and amphibs to mitigate the effects of hot spots created by the exhaust from vertical-and-short-takeoff aircraft like the V-22 and F-35.

The primary candidates for this kind of thermally resistant flight deck applique are the Wasp- and America-class amphibious assault ships.

Okay, all you thermal-management experts: any takers out there? If so, drop an e-mail to DARPA at DARPA-BAA-10-10@darpa.mil. More information about this project is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-BAA-10-10/listing.html.


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