Integrated Fuel Tank Structure Improves Fuel Carriage and Delivery Capacity
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is using an integrated fuel tank structure to maximize fuel offload for the proposed MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling aircraft for the US Navy. GA-ASI applied its knowledge of advanced composite aircraft structures to develop integrated fuel tanks in a large-scale wing box test article and a full-scale wing skin pre-production validation article.
The wing box tested to failure via wing bending at GA-ASI's Adelanto, Calif. structural test facility in November 2017. In April, the company verified the production readiness of the co-cured wing and tail components using both non-destructive and destructive inspections.
"The integral fuel tank wing box test article will reduce technical and schedule risk for the program," said David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. "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."
A full-scale inner-wing skin demonstration article built in March at GA-ASI's Spanish Fork, Utah facility verified the MQ-25 tooling concepts, lamination approach, and processes. The team validated the outer mold line tooling approach for the build process which enables accelerated engineering and tooling fabrication for the MQ-25 program.