The US Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded Collins Aerospace a contract to develop a prototype ventral fin for the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.
The company will apply its specialized welding process and component design techniques to significantly reduce the weight and cost of the fin’s current design.
The three-year program will see Collins integrate its thermoplastic technology to fabricate an F-16 fin.
“We are seeing an increased demand and opportunity to replace legacy aircraft components with thermoplastics,” Collins Aerospace Aerostructures Vice President and General Manager Stan Kottke said.
Work on the ventral fin will leverage methods from similar programs, including the composite F-16 horizontal stabilator (all-moving tail).
The company will also invest approximately $100 million over the next five years to improve its thermoplastic technology and process thermoplastic materials for both military and commercial use.
“The trend is using advanced thermoplastic materials to lower the cost and weight while reducing our overall environmental footprint, and those benefits are directly passed on to our customer,” Kottke added.
‘More Sustainable Future’
Thermoplastic materials have an indefinite shelf life, can be stored at room temperature, and reused or recycled, characteristics that decrease the need for an energy-intensive storage approach, according to Collins Aerospace.
In addition, incorporating thermoplastic materials into parts can reduce the fuel emissions of an aircraft and eliminate thousands of fasteners that add weight.
“Lighter aircraft equate to lower emissions and a greater ability to reach our industry’s goal of being carbon zero by 2050,” explained David Manten, General Manager of Collins Engineered Thermoplastics.
“We don’t just have our eyes on a more sustainable future: we’re building it every day.”