Air Force Research Lab engineers, together with Webcore Technologies Inc., of Dayton, Ohio, have developed new lightweight, composite airfield matting that holds the promise of speeding the deployment of aircraft to forward locations at reduced costs. The new matting system weighs 36 percent less than the extruded aluminum currently in use and has twice the operational life, says AFRL. It will allow for construction crews to expand parking aprons and connect taxiways and maintenance areas considerably faster due to its inherent lightweight, simple connection method and optimized shipping size. “The new panels are easier to connect, install and replace,” said Dean Foster, a lead project engineer with AFRL. Efforts are underway to improve upon its performance further, but several years of testing have already shown that it meets USAF’s loading and weight requirements. (AFRL report by Pete Meltzer Jr.)
When the Air Force sets a new program baseline for the B-52 re-engining this fall, there will be “some” cost increase, because the project wasn't previously fully funded, and the Air Force has a better handle on actual supplier costs and knowledge from ground testing, program officials said.