US AEDC’s Tunnel 16S set to relaunch following restoration

3 November 2020 (Last Updated November 3rd, 2020 11:06)

The US Arnold Air Force Base (AFB) Engineering Development Complex's (AEDC) 16ft supersonic wind tunnel (Tunnel 16S) test facility is set to relaunch within the next few months.

US AEDC’s Tunnel 16S set to relaunch following restoration
The team working to reactive the Arnold Engineering Development Complex 16ft supersonic wind tunnel nozzle at Arnold AFB. Credit: USAF / Deidre Moon.

The US Arnold Air Force Base (AFB) Engineering Development Complex’s (AEDC) 16ft supersonic wind tunnel (Tunnel 16S) test facility is set to relaunch within the next few months.

The reactivation of Tunnel 16S follows a four-year restoration and modernisation programme.

Last month, the nozzle drive motors for the 16S was completed.

Future Capabilities Program 16S projects manager Tyler McCamey said: “One of the key efforts to making this happen is successfully completing the nozzle drive motor installation.

“The nozzle is one of the main features needed to operate any wind tunnel test facility.”

In January 2018, the contract for the nozzle upgrade was awarded and the Propulsion Wind Tunnel (PWT) team completed the work at Arnold AFB.

PWT electrical system engineer Will Layne said: “A total of 108 new motors had to be installed on 108 jacks that move the flex nozzle.

“That’s 54 motors on each side, 27 motors on the top jacks and 27 motors on the bottom jacks. The checkout process has been complicated.”

The motors in the system turn the nozzle and help generate supersonic speeds in the 16S.

The 1in-thick steel walls of the nozzle are 16ft tall and more than 100ft long.

McCamey added: “Though state-of-the-art when it was designed, the nozzle used hydraulic motors for movement and tape reels to measure distances within thousandths of an inch, using an archaic control computer by today’s standards.

“One of the technical challenges was identifying replacement electric drive motors that can survive the harsh environment of temperature and partial vacuum inside the tunnel and that would fit a space not designed for them.”