The US Air Force (USAF) and Texas Research Institute (TRI) have developed a high-temperature, abrasion-resistant coating product that can directly improve the reliability and maintainability of the air force weapon systems, including the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

The Proteckt high-temperature coating has been developed with funding from the air force’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programme.

It offers improved high-temperature abrasion resistance for aerospace composite applications, and has already demonstrated significant improvements in abrasion-resistance at operational temperatures during laboratory testing.

Air Force Research Laboratory SBIR project manager major George Woodworth said: "This is roughly a 2000% improvement in the average time between coating failures and directly addresses a current F-35 need.

"The Proteckt high-temperature coating offers improved high-temperature abrasion resistance for aerospace composite applications."

"We anticipate that the new material will provide the programme an estimated $14 million in life-cycle cost savings."

The current preferred abrasion-resistant camouflage coatings are filled polyurethane paints, which have moderate high-temperature resistance, but poor long-term wear resistance at high temperatures and also degrade over time, generating requirement for frequent repair and recoating.

TRI evaluated a variety of raw materials, developed numerous coating formulations in conjunction with the experimental design development process, and eventually identified the best formulations.

Meanwhile, USAF sought abrasion-resistant coatings that can resist high temperatures for longer durations and also match the existing camouflage paint schemes of aircraft parts.

Apart from offering improved high-temperature abrasion-resistance, the Proteckt camouflage coating can also withstand standard aircraft fluids, meet colour and gloss requirements, and exhibits good adhesion, even after accelerated fluid exposures.

The coating can be applied using traditional procedures, including brush, roller, and high-volume low-pressure spray.

TRI also received a $1.3m Rapid Innovation Funding award to further advance the technology for potential USAF applications.

Image: A USAF F-35 Lightning II aircraft sits under on the flightline at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, US. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle.