Design for Limited Life Airframes

Period of Performance: 05/17/2000 - 03/17/2001


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Foster-miller, Inc.
350 Second Ave.
Waltham, MA 02451
Principal Investigator


The concept of a UCAV enables a different approach to airframe design and fabrication. Expected mission profiles will be executed with minimal g-load. The aircraft will experience long periods of storage in humidity controlled containers with no damaging training missions. The UCAV requires new thinking in terms of design criteria that can take advantage of these conditions for the lowest cost, lightest weight, and most reliable aircraft.Foster-Miller proposes a combined approach to design for limited life UCAV. Design requirements will be studied with support from Boeing St. Louis and nationally recognized consultants. We will develop manufacturing approaches that take advantage of innovative Boeing airframe structures for UCAV. Out-of-autoclave primary assembly bonding using ultrasonics is proposed. This will be combined with solid-state curing concepts that enable low cost, positional tooling in out-of-autoclave cure processes. Use of long discontinuous fiber preforms for rapid formation of complex shapes will be examined. This combination of innovative, low-cost fabrication approaches and the knowledgeable review and recommendations of experts in establishing design criteria and their impact on design and fabrication of the UCAV are the essence of the proposed program. A follow-on Phase II program will target implementation of these ideas on the RR&OE aircraft. (p00428) Using the Air Force UCAV as the baseline, this research will explore a spectrum of technologies and criteria for low cost, short lived, airframes. We believe that the UCAV is the ideal vehicle to use as a new technology introduction platform because it is unmanned and short lived and therefore the program has a larger risk tolerance. Additionally, the program is much more open to new design concepts, low cost fabrication processes and reduced design criteria than other contemporary programs, like JSF. It may well be that the path to new, low cost technology on the JSF is through the UCAV program.Therefore, not only will this work benefit the UCAV program by providing options for lower cost and lighter weight structures that can be rapidly manufactured, it will also pave the way for transition of the technology and criteria developed here to larger, more risk adverse, programs.