Australian defence scientists are set to test new fatigue testing technologies on a retired US Navy Seahawk helicopter.
This approach is expected to help transform the way military helicopters are managed, while potentially reducing maintenance costs and enhancing aircraft availability.
Australian Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne noted that the new technologies could prove to be beneficial for both military and civilian helicopter operators.
The defence scientists and engineers are currently developing a full-scale, structural fatigue test rig that can be used to precisely replicate the loads and forces experienced by a helicopter during flight, added Pyne.
Pyne said: “While full-scale fatigue tests are routinely conducted for fixed-wing aircraft, the complex, high-frequency flight loading of helicopters has been particularly challenging to replicate in the laboratory.
“Instead, helicopters are certified using conservative test methods that do not always fully predict the possibility of fleet damage.”
The Australian Defence Industry is set to invest $5m over the next five years in the fatigue testing initiative.
It will work in close collaboration with both the local industry and the US Navy to complete the project.
The Australian companies involved in the project include Nova Systems, Jack Thompson Engineering, Fortburn and Advanced VTOL.
The trial programme, including the development of the new test rig and test demonstration, began in late-2017 and is slated to continue until 2022.
Pyne added: “The programme aims not only to develop the capability to fully test and validate helicopter structures, but also to deliver innovations that may be applied to other areas such as the fatigue testing of fixed-wing aircraft.
“If successful, the technology could represent a considerable commercial opportunity for the defence industry in Australia.”
The US Navy intends to implement full-scale fatigue testing on its entire fleet of Romeo Seahawk helicopters.