The Israeli air force has introduced ultrasound maintenance measures to enable it to swiftly repair cracks in the wings of its fighter fleet.
The crack detection system grounds the fleet for the shortest possible time, the IAF says, adding that the service has used it recently to repair cracks in the wing support bulkhead of its Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fleet.
Two years ago, the US Air Force detected the same problem in itsa F-16C/D fleet, and was advised to remove the fuselage and wing sections.
“We calculated that fixing the problem will involve grounding each of our F-16C/D for a least a month,” the head of the engineering division for the IAF’s 22 maintenance unit told FlightGlobal.
The officer said the unacceptable grounding time required for this repair prompted the launch of a development programme, which resulted in the ultrasound checks being introduced to scan inside the fuselage where the problematic bulkhead is located.
“The short ultrasound check gave us the… data to know how to fix the crack,” the officer says.
The ultrasound checks and the crack repairs take 3-4h, he notes. After the ultrasound scan, a portable milling device was inserted into the fuselage to repair the cracked area.
The technicians of unit 22 were equipped with special fixing kits, and the process was accelerated “with excellent results”, the officer says.
He adds that fixing the cracked wing support bulkhead will facilitate a comprehensive structural upgrade of the IAF’s F-16C/Ds.