The US Air Force has awarded a contract to Advanced Photonix for the development of a prototype terahertz quality control system as part of the phase II SBIR programme.
Based on the fibre-coupled T-Ray 4000 instrument, the new terahertz control system will ensure the proper fit of the coated exterior surfaces of the Lockheed-developed F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.
Developed under the phase II SBIR programme, the handheld scanner will be a plug-in accessory to the system.
The technology in the scanner enables it to be used in other aircraft and applications such as measurement of coating thickness, subsurface inspection, surface topography measurements, measurement of coating tapers and coating cure states.
CEO of API Richard Kurtz said the application of the T-Ray 4000 product platform to help solve the difficult manufacturing challenge posed by next-generation military aircraft is a potentially significant opportunity to deploy multiple systems for the manufacturing and maintenance of the F-35 throughout its life.
Following the successful completion of the phase II dedicated T-Ray 4000 prototype system, the deployment of multiple production systems in phase III will begin.
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In phase III, the T-Ray 4000 non-destructive testing system will improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce costs on the expensive process of installing the coated doors and panels on the F-35.
Valued at $3m, the 24-month phase II contract, has an option of receiving an additional $1.5m from the air force.
The aim of the joint strike fighter programme is to develop affordable next-generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the US and eight JSF international partners.