Rig helps engineers complete testing of flexible payload bay for future aircraft


Ground-based trials to demonstrate the release of a full-sized store from an aircraft payload bay have been successfully completed on a bespoke rig built at BAE Systems in Lancashire, UK.

Releasing a weapon or store from an aircraft weapons bay at high subsonic and supersonic speeds presents a series of complex engineering challenges. The harsh aero-acoustic noise and vibration experienced within a weapons bay creates a high risk of damaging the structural integrity of the aircraft or the store. The need to rapidly open and close bay doors adds to the complexity.

A ground test facility specifically designed for testing bay doors at BAE Systems’s site in Warton, Lancashire, has enabled engineers to undertake a series of full-scale ground tests that are providing a more detailed understanding of the bay environment.

Working closely with the Weapon and Ejector Release Unit design organizations within MBDA UK and Harris’ Release Systems, the development team at BAE Systems has captured high quality data from instruments and high-speed cameras during the trials. The tests culminated in the successful high subsonic release of a store from a bay designed, and now proven, to survive this severe environment.

The data will be used to help optimize the design of payload bays to carry weapons, fuel tanks or sensor equipment on future aircraft. 

Michael Christie, BAE Systems’ strategy director, said, “Future combat aircraft need to offer a multitude of capabilities. They must also be affordable and adaptable. By demonstrating the ability to operate a weapons bay at high speed and use it to carry other payloads, we’re proving that we have the ability to design flexible, high performance combat aircraft a long way into the future.”

Colin Gambrill, Harris Release Systems chief engineer, said, “The challenge associated with the safe carriage and release of internally carried payloads cannot be understated. We relish this opportunity to influence the design of future carriage systems.” 

Engineers on the team will now analyze the data from these trials to incorporate these results into working methods for design and qualification.

February 9, 2018

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About Author


Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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