Saturday, March 14, 2009

F-35 May Need Thermal Management Changes

Via -

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II may be redesigned to improve its ability to absorb heat from its electronics and systems.

The aircraft is meeting the specification for thermal management, but the Joint Strike Fighter program’s deputy executive officer, Maj. Gen. David Heinz (select), says he is asking contractors to assess the costs of changes to give it a bigger margin over the requirement.

“We meet that requirement but it is a very tough requirement,” Heinz says, adding that, while he has asked for studies for an improved margin, “at the moment I don’t need it.”

The F-35 is designed to transfer heat from its powerful electronics and systems to its fuel, to keep the aircraft cool and make it less detectable by infrared cameras.

Under most conditions, that presents no challenge, but if the aircraft is at the end of a mission, it will have little fuel aboard to absorb the heat energy, says Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin’s executive vice president for F-35 program integration. And the toughest part of the specification is to distribute the heat into the remaining fuel while operating in the tropics in hot and high conditions.

While Heinz says the aircraft can do that, his interest in finding ways of increasing the margin – for example, by circulating the fuel faster and reducing the amount of generated heat – implies that the aircraft is only just meeting its specification without much room for comfort.

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