Lockheed Martin is to modify a Dornier 328Jet to demonstrate advanced composite airframe technology for a future tractical transport.

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has authorised Lockheed's Skunk Works to proceed into Phase II of the Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA) flight demonstration programme.

Aurora Flight Sciences was competing to build the X-plane demonstrator. AFRL is investigating opportunities for Aurora to collaborate with Lockheed on the demonstration of additional technologies.

Because AFRL wants the demonstrator to fly within 12 months, Lockheed will replace the mid/aft fuselage and empennage of the high-wing, twin-turbofan 328Jet with advanced composite structures.

Dornier 328Jet Gandalf

"With ACCA we are attempting to reinvent the manufacturing paradigm through the strategic use of composite manufacturing technologies," says Frank Mauro, vice-president, advanced systems development for Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs, as the Skunk Works is formally known.

Compared with conventional manufacturing approaches, advanced composites will enable an 80-90% reduction in parts count, says Lockheed. ACCA is an opportunity to "change the way composites are used in aircraft manufacturing, leading to lighter, less expensive, more durable aircraft that are easier to maintain", says Mauro.

328 military 
© Lockheed Martin

The Skunk Works used advanced composite manufacturing technologies, including a low-temperature, non-autoclave curing process, in building its Polecat unmanned air vehicle demonstrator. The flying-wing Polecat's structure was almost 100% composite and consisted of fewer than 200 parts.

Lockheed says the ACCA X-plane will have growth provisions allowing it to be used as a technology workhorse for additional advanced transport aircraft experiments. ACCA is one of several AFRL projects developing technology for a potential future Lockheed C-130 replacement, labelled AJACS (Advanced Joint Air Combat System).


Source: FlightGlobal.com