General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) completed the full-scale fatigue testing of an MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) on Dec. 5, 2023, marking a major milestone for the company. The testing validates the design of the airframe system and is part of the aircraft certification to the NATO standard STANAG 4671. The testing simulates repeated structural loading on the assembled airframe to identify potential deficiencies and will be used for certification and in-service inspections. The MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPA and the completion of the fatigue test builds confidence for customers that the airframe meets stringent design requirements.
On Dec. 5, 2023, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) achieved a significant milestone by completing full-scale fatigue testing of an MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The team successfully completed the “first lifetime” of fatigue testing, equivalent to 40,000 operating hours, marking a crucial step in validating the design of the airframe system. This testing is part of the aircraft certification to the NATO standard STANAG 4671, where the aircraft will ultimately undergo testing through three lifetimes, thus proving the 40,000-hour lifetime of the airframe.
The full-scale fatigue test simulates the aircraft’s design service by applying repeated structural loading on the assembled airframe. This testing helps identify any potential structural deficiencies before fleet usage and aids in developing inspection and maintenance schedules for the airframe. The results of the test will be used as part of the documentation for certification and form the basis for in-service inspections of structural components.
MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPA, including the SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® models, as well as the new Protector RG Mk 1 that is currently being delivered to the U.K. Royal Air Force.
“Full-scale fatigue testing is an integral part of validating the airframe design and a key input to the certification of the airframe prior to going into service,” said Chris Dusseault, Vice President of MQ-9B in Europe. “The completion of the fatigue test builds confidence for our MQ-9B customers that the SkyGuardian/SeaGuardian airframe meets the stringent design rigor and is a mature system at Entry into Service.”
The testing is the validation of years of design and analysis efforts. This is the first of three lifetimes of testing for the airframe. Two of the lifetimes simulate the operation of an aircraft under normal conditions, and the third lifetime has intentional damage inflicted on the airframe’s critical components to demonstrate its resistance to operational damage that may occur in the lifetime of the air vehicle.
Testing was conducted Dec. 13, 2022-Dec. 5, 2023, at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita, Kan. The airframe tested is a production airframe purpose-built to support the test campaign.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable RPA systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator® RPA series and the Lynx® Multi-mode Radar. With more than eight million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent situational awareness. The company also produces a variety of sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas.
For more information, visit www.ga-asi.com.
Avenger, Lynx, Predator, SeaGuardian, and SkyGuardian are registered trademarks of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
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