General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has improved the fuel carriage and delivery capacity of the US Navy’s proposed MQ-25 unmanned aerial refuelling aircraft by incorporating an integrated fuel tank structure.
The company leveraged its knowledge of advanced composite aircraft structures to develop integrated fuel tanks in a large-scale wing box test article and full-scale wing skin pre-production validation article.
The wing box originally tested to failure as a result of wing bending at GA-ASI’s structural test facility at Adelanto in California, US, in November last year.
GA-ASI subsequently used both non-destructive and destructive inspections to verify the production readiness of the latest co-cured wing and tail components in April.
The company also developed a full-scale inner-wing skin demonstration article in March at its Spanish Fork’s facility in Utah in order to verify the MQ-25 tooling concepts, lamination approach and processes.
In addition, GA-ASI has validated the outer mould line tooling approach for the construction process, which will enable accelerated engineering and tooling fabrication for the MQ-25 Stingray programme.
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GA-ASI Aircraft Systems president David R Alexander said: “The integral fuel tank wing box test article will reduce technical and schedule risk for the programme.
“Specifically, through extensive validation of fuel containment sealing methods, advanced non-linear buckling finite element analysis models and thick composite laminate construction, we have accelerated engineering design consideration prior to the detail design phase and production.”
The MQ-25 Stingray is an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that has been designed by Boeing for the US Navy.
It is intended to provide the navy with the required refuelling capability to extend the combat range of the deployed F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-35C fighter jets.