USAF evaluates modified PBIS-2000 lift gas generator


The US Air Force Special Operations Command (US AFSOC) has successfully carried out initial field trials of AlumiFuel Power's (AFPW) upgraded Portable Balloon Inflation System (PBIS)-2000 at an undisclosed location.

Delivered in January following certain USAF-requested modifications, the system successfully addressed the service's minimum requirements during the testing.

The company was also informed by the AFSOC about several minor items, which need to be modified or integrated for follow-on units.

Delayed in wake of the US government's budget cuts, the trials represent the system's second round of on-site training and evaluation, following on-site training with AFPW's engineers at Hurlburt Field airbase in Florida, US, in 2012.

''The modifications clearly improved the operating functionality and capability of the system, and will be incorporated in a more streamlined design for follow-on PBIS-2000 production units."

Following the 2012 testing, the system, which was originally delivered in April that year, was returned to AFPW for modification of 14 items to help enhance and upgrade its functionality and user-friendliness in the field.

AlumiFuel Power Technologies President and CEO David Cade said: ''The modifications clearly improved the operating functionality and capability of the system, and will be incorporated in a more streamlined design for follow-on PBIS-2000 production units."

The AFSOC ordered a prototype PBIS-200 system along with 360 cartridges, a spare parts kit, a tool kit and a two-day operational training package from AlumiFuel in September 2011.

The next milestone in the evaluation programme includes additional trials in the US and then in an overseas environment, where the PBIS is expected to operate.

Equipped with six AlumiFuel cartridges, PBIS-2000 is a hydrogen lift-gas generator designed to provide the AFSOC with the required amount of lift gas for the launch of a 200g weather balloon and special instrumentation payload within 20 minutes.

Having footprint, weight and safety features similar to that of the company's PBIS-lite system, it is also capable of operating at ambient pressure and low temperatures, a quality superior to conventional K-cylinders.

Defence Technology