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)


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.


Facebook Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: 🎽🏃‍♀️14 marathons, 15 sprint triathlons, 10 half-Ironman triathlons & 7 #Ironman triathlons later, @usairforce Lt. Col Yvone S…
RT @DeptofDefense: Take a moment, press ▶️, and watch the journey of @usairforce Capt. Cole Holloway and his wife as they share their story…
RT @USAFReserve: The @usairforce is creating a computer language initiative to make more Airmen fluent in computer languages Learn more at…
RT @DeptofDefense: The Family Business. For the Fullam family, serving in the military was their destiny. @usairforce Capt. Jay “Pistol” Fu…
RT @HQ_AFMC: How #ready are you for nature's fury? Get some tips from @NOAA on hurricane readiness, and be prepared! #hurricane https://t.…
RT @SJAFB: Hey @RafaelNadal, we can’t wait for our F-15’s, from the 334th Fighter Squadron, to conduct your flyover for the @usopen Champio…
RT @PACAF: Out with the old and in with the new. https://t.co/war6Jh4yaW https://t.co/s2Fi42ibtF
RT @53rdWRS: We may done flying missions into Hurricane #Dorian, but the season isn’t over yet. So you know we’re training and prepping for…
RT @Team_Tinker: Tinker housed a fleet of F-15s, KC-135s and E-8Cs that evacuated from #HurricaneDorian this week. https://t.co/wL8KQq2cCK
RT @USAFHealth: Ground Surgical Teams are composed of an @usairforce trauma surgeon, emergency physician, nurse anesthetist, surgical scrub…
RT @HQ_AFMC: It's #NationalReadABookDay and a GREAT day to check out the recommendations from @GenDaveGoldfein and @cmsaf18 on the CSAF…
RT @AFCareers: #Dorian makes landfall. Potential for flash flooding and power outages. Be safe out there! #AirForce #AFPC https://t.co/XElR…
RT @SJAFB: Thank You @Team_Tinker for being such wonderful hosts for our F-15E Strike Eagles as we prepared for Hurricane Dorian. #SJAFB #1
RT @ArmedwScience: Nations around the world are working to adopt #ArtificialIntelligence into government, industry & national security. @us
RT @DVIDSHub: The only reason we know it was around is because we caught it on video! #B2 refueling over Norwegian Sea ... https://t.co/7i…
RT @AF_WSOC: It's gameday...time to #BeatArmy 🆚: Army West Point 📍: USAFA, Colo. 🏟️: Cadet Soccer Stadium ⏰: 6 p.m. MT 💻: https://t.co/Bym…
#FridayFunFact: The 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron has the only operational cryogenic production plant in the… https://t.co/PZPZvak0YS
RT @cmsaf18: You know what time it is! Spark Tank 2020 - get those ideas ready. https://t.co/ZEpBcOtNKs
RT @PACAF: #PACAF #Airmen are straightening relationships in #Malaysia during #A2AT. https://t.co/wxHlZXIQ9S
RT @SJAFB: Salute to all of our first responders still working during the hurricane. And those who have volunteered their time to make sure…