This article was originally published by The Christian Science Monitor.
A group of engineers is using a decades-old military technology to make one more Cyclones more sure. The BAE Systems’ team for the Transverse Speed Restoratus series has replaced the bolts holding a U.S. Army helicopter’s tail to the rotors with heavy-duty crankshafts made of reinforced steel.
Although it is not the first time this has been done, BAE says it is a “new approach to making a part that is almost 100% factory-made and pre-fabricated for rapid assembly”. Of course, it is probably best to think of the tail, or flywheels, as the seat of power for an aircraft, as opposed to seat cushion. The Artec K100 11.6kWh Wind Turbine Generator, which is being used in the tilt-rotor aircraft, is one of the largest solid-state transformers currently in production.
BAE has been working on the U.S. Army’s Chinook helicopter since 2004. The turboshaft is the crucial part of the power unit, which provides each helicopter’s power. The design is currently being tested in Oshkosh, Wisconsin at Hill Air Force Base before being deployed to Afghanistan.
BAE hopes the new design will make the Chinook capable of greater speeds and range, which will mean greater combat capability. By extending the flight time between breakdowns, the company hopes to have the helicopters performing as the U.S. Army’s premier aerial workhorse.
The U.S. Army has started to replace the older, 500T Black Hawk and Apaches which were built between 1968 and 1972. One version of the UH-60A, also known as the Chinook, was developed in the 1970s, when the Black Hawk was first introduced. This aircraft is a 50 percent smaller version of the Black Hawk, and it used a less powerful new turboshaft with a smaller engine.
On a day-to-day basis, the Chinook’s main mission is to transport troops and supplies, so BAE engineers developed the humvee model, which is the more powerful version. In this way, the two helicopters use the same exact engine and gearbox, although the new Chinook has a four-barrel Pratt & Whitney helicopter engine which produces a higher amount of thrust.
The Chinook will likely be equipped with a family of sensors to allow its flight crew to see everything that is going on below the tail rotor, and unlike with today’s Black Hawks, the Chinook should also have better protection against enemy fire.
Originally published on Live Science.