Arnold AFB in Tennessee prepares to test next-generation jet engines

An aerial view of Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., Which is the headquarters of the Arnold Engineering Development Complex. The AEDC is upgrading two of its altitude test cells at the airbase’s engine testing facility to enable testing of next-generation large-scale propulsion systems under simulated flight conditions as well. realistic as possible. (US Air Force)

(Tribune News Service) – The next generation of military jet engines will be tested at Tennessee’s Arnold Engineering Development Complex as the Tullahoma military facility undergoes upgrades to prepare for new tasks.

Arnold Air Force Base – or “AEDC” as the Army and most residents of Tennessee call it – is upgrading two of its altitude test cells at the airbase’s engine test facility to allow testing next-generation, full-scale propulsion systems under simulated flight conditions made as realistic as possible, according to a press release on the jobs.

The Next Generation Turbine Engine Test Capability project is a multi-year effort to update the facility that already has decades of jet engine and rocket testing under its olive belt.

It’s a pretty technical job, but in summary it means that the two aging test cells need to be restored and improved before they can properly test the latest and greatest American reaction technology.

Testing facilities like the ones Arnold is planning are scarce.

New technology, new test facilities

“Next-generation turbine engines could incorporate new technologies that will require test facilities to deliver higher intake temperatures and potentially up to 50% more mass flow than the larger combat engine in the fleet, ”Rick Hutchings, AEDC Future Capabilities Technical Lead. Branch said in a press release.

No other test facility has “the capability or expertise to test these new engines, qualify them for flight validation and ensure they are fit to operate across the flight envelope.” , did he declare.

To get it right, Hutchings said testing facilities need to match the development of jet engines, which means having the ability to test at the higher temperatures produced by today’s engines. The two test cells targeted for upgrades no longer match the bill.

Jet engine exhaust gases can reach 3000 degrees and must be cooled to less than 120 degrees. As new engines with higher flow rates are developed, the exhaust gas cooling system must be able to cool more exhaust of those same temperatures at the same distance in the installation.

Upgrades include replacing rusty spray bars that cool the exhaust gases by spraying water into the air stream and installing 24 heat exchangers to perform more cooling. The exchangers consist of pipe coils for the passage of water, which Jaron Northcutt, the project manager, compared to car radiators, providing more surface area with a lower temperature to cool the exhaust gases at high temperatures. temperature.

The project will give Arnold the opportunity “to add to a long list of valuable contributions to the nation in the field of aeropropulsion,” Northcutt said in the press release.

AEDC celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2021

The airbase’s history of jet engine testing dates back six decades to Arnold, who celebrated his 70th birthday in 2021. The airbase was built on the site of the military’s Camp Forrest dating back to World War II, which existed between 1941 and 1946.

Arnold also tests rocket motors for missiles and spacecraft.

“We were designated as the Arnold Engineering Development Center – now Complex – on June 25, 1951, 70 years ago,” base public affairs chief Jason Austin said on Wednesday.

Arnold was dedicated by President Harry Truman and named in honor of Henry “Hap” Arnold, a five-star US Air Force general, according to historical reports. Construction of other facilities continued.

“Two years later, we did our first test when we tested the J-47 jet engine,” Austin said.

By 1961, AEDC’s jet engine test facilities were fully operational.

“Over the past 60 years, AEDC’s turbine engine ground test facilities have tested turbine engines for the majority of [ U.S.] The fighters, bombers, cruise missiles and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms of the Department of Defense, ”said Hutchings.

The airbase and complex “are really at the heart of how we develop the nation’s air and space power,” AEDC test division chief Col. Lincoln Bonner said in a statement. press on the occasion of the anniversary. “Almost all of the high performance aircraft and missiles since 1951 in service today with the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have some of their roots here at the Arnold Air Force Base. And it’s not something most of the public learns or sees. “

Since its inception, organizations and locations have been added to Arnold, bringing to 68 the total number of test cells, facilities and offices operated nationally by base personnel, and more are under construction, Bonner said.

The two test cells to be updated in the project are an example of work in progress to keep pace with technology.

“Today, we are continuing that legacy by investing in the next generation turbine engine test capability project,” Austin said Wednesday.

(c) 2022 the Chattanooga Times / Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

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