Australia’s Minister for Defence acknowledges the expertise provided by QinetiQ in ground breaking aircraft life extension project
QinetiQ AeroStructures, working alongside Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation and Directorate General of Technical Airworthiness, has completed an airframe analysis programme to enable the Australian Defence Material Organisation to extend the life of its F/A 18 Hornet aircraft fleet and potentially save up to AUD $400 million of scheduled Defence budget spend.
Originally up to 49 of the RAAF’s F/A-18 Hornet aircraft were scheduled to undergo a massive structural refurbishment programme that would have included the replacement of the entire main load-bearing fuselage centre barrel which carries all loads from the wings. Under the plans each aircraft would also have been offline for more than a year while the modification work was carried out, impacting overall availability.
In order to reduce the impact of this refurbishment, Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation conducted full-scale fatigue testing of ex-service centre aircraft fuselages to establish a more accurate assessment of the fatigue life of the centre barrel. Then using data obtained from the tests, a QinetiQ team was able to complete the complex engineering analysis that substantiated a life extension of this critical part of the aircraft. This work could result in the number of F/A-18 Hornet aircraft requiring the fuselage centre barrel needing immediate replacement being reduced from 49 to just 10, resulting in a saving of around $400m being made. The remainder could then be deferred by at least two years.
“We are pleased to announce that extensive work has determined that the centre barrel structure of the RAAF’s F/A-18 aircraft are not as fatigued as originally anticipated,” stated The Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP, the Australian Minister for Defence. “Deferring future centre barrel replacements provides the Government with increased flexibility and options for Australia’s future air combat capability. This is good news for the ADF and the taxpayer, delivering considerable savings and ensuring Australia’s frontline fighter capability is maintained.”
“The leading edge fatigue testing and analysis has shown that the actual life of the Hornet’s centre barrels is 10%, or two years, greater than originally certified,” added The Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel. “These findings are thanks to Australia’s internationally recognised world-leading expertise in testing and managing ageing aircraft, and is the result of decades of experience developing this capability.”
About QinetiQ AeroStructures
QinetiQ AeroStructures, a wholly-owned QinetiQ subsidiary, is an engineering consultancy firm specialising in aircraft structural integrity. Areas of expertise include aircraft life extension, aircraft structural integrity management, usage monitoring, numerical modelling, repair design, structural testing, damage tolerance analysis, software development and non-destructive testing. The company employs more than 90 specialist personnel and is based in Melbourne Australia.