Over the last few years, Lockheed Martin has been busy manufacturing the world’s latest fighter attack jet. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) with its three different variants is an example of the best of the best.
The F-35 JSF is a significantly different aircraft compared to legacy fighters, such as the F-18 and F-16, it’s designed to replace:
- The F-35 needs 270v DC ground power, not 400 Hz.
- It also needs high-pressure cold dry air supplied to it for ground operations.
Full production of the aircraft is not expected until 2019, but hangars have been in the works for more than four years. The new hangars that support this fantastic aircraft can’t be just ordinary hangars. They need to have the latest in technology and safety built into them. What used to work for hangar design doesn’t necessarily apply anymore.
With a handful of these hangars 100 percent up and running and many more being built both in the United States and in some NATO countries, how is the learning curve going?
Our exclusive military distributor B GSE Group, based in Huntersville, NC, and its employees have been involved in almost every F-35 hangar design to date in some form or another.
Scott Dils, vice president of sales and marketing, B GSE Group, informs me that we are currently through most of the learning curve. Which is not to say that there haven’t been a few very long years since there’s been much to learn.
The F-35 uses 270v DC power. This power supply is more advanced and different in almost every way from 400 Hz power we are used to.
Like 28v DC, it is more difficult to have long cable runs from the power supply to the aircraft. In other words, central 270v DC systems or putting this power supply far away from the aircraft is not possible.
The F-35 is also a very smart aircraft. If the quality of the 270v DC provided from the converter, or the 28v DC E&F safety power circuit is not the perfect voltage, amperage or harmonics at the aircraft plug, the aircraft will not accept the power and will not turn on when the ground crew hits the external power switch. Nobody likes it when that happens.
Due to required, shortened 270v DC cable lengths, the power converter will most often be located in the hangar.
However, if the hangar will also service legacy aircraft, space may not be available to fit the converters along the hangar wall. Solutions have ranged from raised platforms, hangar ceiling mounts and high wall-mounting solutions. Many specialized designers have had to change the way they think if they have done 400 Hz hangers in the past and now are designing for 270v DC power.
Running these cables across the ground is also not very feasible. These are very expensive cables that contain a lot of smaller, easily damaged conductors.
It’s been a real design challenge and the solution most widely accepted has been through subterranean service PITs.
Service PITs are the most popular way to provide multiple sources of required service points right at the aircraft without running any cables or hoses across the hangar floor.
It also solves the problem of taking up valuable hangar floor space and not causing potentially dangerous situations with hard-mounted podium service tables for equipment in the middle of the hangar floor.
At Luke AFB, located outside Glendale, AZ, Dils says that B GSE Group has designed, with the help of USS PIT Co., an all-in-one everything you need PIT for the F-35 – 270v DC power, 28v DC power, 120-volt receptacles, multiple 480-volt receptacles, dual shop air for pneumatic air tools, high pressure PCA for the F-35, remotes and automation like no other hangar seen to date.
Without taking up valuable hangar floor space, cable and hose to provide the F-35 with its required power and air can be brought directly into position and then stowed away under the hangar floor with the push of a button.
Deals include pit supply systems for Manchester Airport, more than 30 pop-up pits for Qatar, and vault systems to New Delhi.
The orders, worth EUR 3.6 million, are for the supply of GSE to several major airports around the world.