Aerospace composites make auxiliary fuel tanks lighter
The use of composites in the aerospace sector has grown astronomically over the past decade and will likely continue to grow in the near future. This growth is thanks to the fact that composites are being used to create structures from wings to radomes. Now, composites are helping military aircraft inside, too, with composite auxiliary fuselage fuel tanks.
Benefits offered by composite auxiliary fuel tanks
The history of the modern aerial refueling tanker aircraft started in 1948 when the fledgling U.S. Air Force activated two squadrons tasked specifically with aerial refueling. The 43rd and 509th Air Refueling Squadrons were equipped with modified B-29 bombers that had been retrofitted with fuel transfer hoses and internal auxiliary fuel tanks. This innovative system allowed fighters and bombers to extend their flying time significantly.
Today, tanker aircraft such as the Embraer KC-390 are carrying on this legacy of innovation thanks to composite auxiliary fuel tanks. These composite tanks are installed inside the tanker aircraft, and they have a number of benefits over metal tanks. For one thing, they’re significantly lighter than metal tanks, which allows the aircraft to carry more weight in other areas.
The composite auxiliary tanks also have superior corrosion resistance to the fuels carried in the tanks, which lowers the risk of dangerous leaks. The reduction of this risk is good for military aircraft especially because it helps to increase survivability. The high corrosion resistance of composites also helps to reduce the amount of maintenance that must be performed on the tanks.
Another important safety benefit composite auxiliary tanks provide is not conducting electrical charges. One danger for aircraft fuel tanks is that electricity could potentially cause the fuel stored in the tanks to explode. With composite tanks, this danger is completely avoidable because composites will only conduct electricity if designed to do so.
These benefits of composite auxiliary fuel tanks combine to make today’s military tanker aircraft more capable refueling platforms. They also allow the militaries that operate them to have safer aircraft that are lighter and require less maintenance.
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