AFRL-Developed Water Repellent Will Help F-16 Fighter Pilots See During Storms

SSgt. Brian Dement, a crew chief assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, polishes the canopy of an F-16 Fighting Falcon before early morning training sorties at Patrick AFB, Fla., on Jan. 30, 2019. ANG photo by SrA. Hope Geiger.

USAF maintainers will soon be able to use an Air Force Research Laboratory-developed water repellent on the service’s F-16 fleet to help fighter pilots see more clearly during storms.

HydroSkip, which has a Windex-like consistency and can be applied once per month in a nearly identical manner to regular polish, keeps rain from accumulating or staying still on aircraft transparencies, an AFRL release explained. The product stands apart from coatings applied by aircraft manufacturers—like the Luna Innovations Inc.-made Gentoo coating—since it can be reapplied throughout an aircraft’s lifetime, versus solely being put on a plane while its transparencies are being cured, the release elaborated.

While HydroSkip was flight-tested at a single base at first, the F-16 System Program Office decided to make the product available fleet-wide at the request of multiple units, Donald Willmoth, a mechanical engineer with the office, said in the release. The amount of HydroSkip that units can order will be limited until the company that makes it—TexStars—can stabilize production levels, he said.

Though USAF has green-lighted HydroSkip orders fleet-wide, flight-testing of the product will continue at one domestic base and two overseas bases to ensure it holds up in the field.

“The plan is to fly 50 flight hours on one squadron and 60 days on the other with periodic testing to [verify] material durability,” Willmoth said.