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Australian fatigue testing technology to be tested on retired US Navy helicopter

170701-N-PD309-204  SULU SEA (July 1, 2017) Sailors assigned to the "Wildcards" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 prepare to hoist a dummy on a litter into an MH-60S Seahawk during a medical drill aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). Coronado is on a rotational deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, patrolling the region's littorals and working hull-to-hull with partner navies to provide U.S. 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Deven Leigh Ellis/Released)

(US Navy)

The US Navy has supplied a retired Seahawk helicopter for Australian Defence scientists to develop and test new fatigue testing technologies which, if successful, could significantly reduce maintenance costs and improve aircraft availability.

“In a world first, Defence scientists and engineers are developing a full-scale, structural fatigue test rig that can accurately replicate the loads and forces experienced by a helicopter in flight,” Minster for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said in a release.

“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 Minister said Defence was investing $5 million on the project. “This very promising technology could not have happened without close collaboration between our Defence scientists and local industry,” he said. “I thank the Australian companies for their involvement in the project, including Nova Systems, Jack Thompson Engineering, Fortburn and Advanced VTOL.

“The trial program, including the building of the innovative test rig and test demonstration, commenced late last year and will continue until 2022. The program 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.”

In addition to supplying the test airframe, the US Navy has expressed an interest in applying the new technology across its entire Seahawk fleet in the future.