HomeNewsArticle Display

Air Force Research Laboratory develops product to provide F-16 pilots with better visibility during rainstorms

Staff Sgt. Cody Brown, 138th Maintenance Squadron, polishes the canopy of an F-16 fighter jet as part of the post-flight procedures on July 13, 2016 at the 138th Fighter Wing. The wraparound canopy provides ideal light in-flight and can withstand the impact of a 4 pound bird at 550 knots. (Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Roberta A. Thompson)

Staff Sgt. Cody Brown, 138th Maintenance Squadron, polishes the canopy of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet as part of the post-flight procedures July 13, 2016 at the 138th Fighter Wing. The wraparound canopy provides ideal light during flight and can withstand the impact of a 4-pound bird at 550 knots. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roberta A. Thompson)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) --

The Air Force Research Laboratory developed a product that repels water from aircraft transparencies and it will soon be available to the entire United States Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon community. The product, called HydroSkip, addresses the issue of limited visibility caused by heavy rain, which can impair the pilot’s ability to navigate the plane and land safely.

While pilots receive weather reports from operational support squadrons, unexpected conditions, like fast moving, pop-up storms, pose risks to planes in the air. In these cases, HydroSkip intends to prevent rain from pooling or remaining stagnant on the F-16 canopy, the transparent enclosure over the cockpit.

Engineers from AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate and the University of Dayton Research Institute selected the formula for HydroSkip after testing about 25 different formulations under simulated conditions in the lab.

“We picked the best one that could be developed into a product the Air Force can use in the field,” said Mike Gran AFRL Aerospace engineer. He explained HydroSkip provides pilots with better visibility “in severe conditions since the water will just run right off of (the canopy).”

With the formula complete, AFRL transferred it to the F-16 System Program Office at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the unit responsible for distributing products to the broader fleet community.

Donald Willmoth, a mechanical engineer who works with the F-16 SPO, said this case represents one of the paths used by the Air Force to transfer inventions from the lab to the field. In this instance, AFRL used engineering funding to address a problem identified by the F-16 community.

Willmoth said once AFRL finishes evaluating a product, “it needs to come to fruition somewhere.” This involves manufacturing, sales and distribution. He explained HydroSkip “went right to F-16s since the SPO served as the originator of the project.”

The product, which has a consistency similar to Windex, applies to the canopy like car wax. Afterward, it turns white and wipes clean after 10 minutes, he said. Aircraft maintenance crews can apply HydroSkip once a month, essentially following the same process used for common polish.

While F-16 pilots at one U.S. airbase initially flight-tested HydroSkip, Willmoth said once others learned of the product, the SPO shifted its plan going forward. Their strategy changed when multiple F-16 units expressed great interest and recommended the product’s availability throughout the Air Force.

To accommodate this level of demand, the F-16 SPO went through the process of changing the technical orders. In late July, the SPO sent a notification to all F-16 units.

“With this change, they can go ahead and order this product,” he explained. However, the quantity each unit can order will be limited until the manufacturer, TexStars, stabilizes its production level for HydroSkip.

While the product will be available to the entire U.S. Air Force F-16 fleet, three Air Force bases including one U.S. base and two outside the U.S., will test HydroSkip under certain criteria. Willmoth said that the other units that experience the majority of water pooling incidents are in Europe and the Far East.

“The plan is to fly 50 flight hours on one squadron and 60 days on the other with periodic testing to (verify) material durability,” he said.

Willmoth explained that gathering physical, quantifiable data for this product is difficult; however, the team examines reporting trends, such as instances when pilots document rain incidents and note if water pooling occurred.

“It’s not realistic to instruct (pilots) to directly fly into storms,” he said, since “obviously, they avoid these types of conditions.”

HydroSkip differs from manufacture-applied coatings since it can be applied to the F-16 canopy throughout the fighter jet’s lifetime. Gentoo, a coating made by Luna Innovations, only applies during the transparency curing process.

These two programs, HydroSkip and Gentoo, examined two very different approaches to water pooling prevention, Willmoth explained.

Gran and Willmoth say they are excited for F-16 pilots to use HydroSkip and see first-hand how it works.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @US_SOCEUR: U.S. #airmen assigned to the 352d Special Operations Wing fly a CV-22B #Osprey aircraft over #Hungary. https://t.co/sSmjq90S…
RT @HQ_AFMC: It's another #NightAtTheMuseum event at the @AFmuseum this Friday when a special evening to celebrate the final days of the Ca…
RT @HQUSAFEPA: The U.S. & #Romania have a standing partnership to address issues of regional & global security. To advance those interests,…
Our Airmen train to perform even when conditions get harsh. @435AEW defenders used self-aid & buddy care, vehicle… https://t.co/ZXVzSUBzsK
Ohio @AirNatlGuard, @178thWing and @179AW sent Disaster Relief Beddown Sets to Puerto Rico to aid earthquake relief… https://t.co/qTGlDasRdY
RT @AFResearchLab: Our 711th Human Performance Wing is studying Airmen's sleeping habits to improve performance and readiness to further th…
.@NellisAFB Airmen help prep an @AusAirForce C-17 Globemaster III to receive fire suppressant needed to aid in the… https://t.co/fRiXN5lNh0
RT @USSOCOM: SOF Truth III: Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced. It takes years to train operational units to the level of pr…
Comptrollers from @TeamTyndall received the Gen. Larry O. Spencer Special Acts and Services Award for assisting mor… https://t.co/TIclfKmU2B
RT @F22DemoTeam: Everyone has a history. Some have a legacy. We are excited to introduce Maj. Joshua ‘Cabo’ Gunderson, commander and pilot…
A KC-135 and three F-16s from @EdwardsAFB conduct a flyover above @levisstadium during the #NFCChampionship. Fly… https://t.co/0K7GcYO1Ia
RT @AirNatlGuard: "We can always count on the training, professionalism and drive of every Airmen at the @176thWing and the Alaska Rescue C…
RT @LukeAFB: Starting the week off with a F-16 slow-mo! ✈ #slowmomonday #aviation #jets #f16 #fighterjet #usaf #sunrise https://t.co/toXXl…
RT @AETCommand: Airmen from the 29th AMU check over the first MQ-9 Reaper to be transported through ferry flight, Jan. 8, 2020, on @Holloma
RT @DeptofDefense: The cold won’t slow down the @usairforce! The Air Force is working with the @usarmyccdc to test cold weather gear and e…
RT @USAFCENT: GROUND SUPPORT | USAF Airmen assigned to the 379th AEMS worked alongside the 746th EAS to load cargo onto & launch a C-130 at…
RT @USAFHealth: #DidYouKnow, Air Force Expeditionary Medicine brings leading-edge medicine directly into battle providing injured personnel…
As he served, let us serve. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. https://t.co/SuE0D4UAnI
RT @AirNatlGuard: "We talk about lining ourselves up with our sister services and joint efforts to make sure we accomplish our mission; the…
RT @AFResearchLab: The year is 1947. The @usairforce officially broke the sound barrier with the Bell X-1 aircraft. This incredible feat w…