The US Air Force is to evaluate an infrared-imaging system developed by Northrop Grumman that can detect airframe cracks and corrosion through paint, eliminating the need to strip aircraft for inspection. The utility of the "see-through-paint" system will be determined during a three-year demonstration/validation programme at a USAF depot, where all aircraft will be inspected before they are stripped and the results compared with examination of the stripped airframes.

The system uses a hand-held imager that, at a certain infrared frequency, can see through the paint, says Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems chief engineer Bob Klein. The imager has a 1mm resolution, allowing the system to "easily read [the numbers on] fastener heads", he says. Northrop Grumman has tested the imager on material coupons and a fuselage section, and now hopes to license the technology to a company that will produce the system.

Source: Flight International