Over the past two decades Fokker Landing Gear and the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) have developed composite components for aircraft landing gear. The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will now be equipped with such a component: polymer matrix composite landing gear drag braces. This announcement was made at the Farnborough International Airshow.
The agreement to develop the Dutch-made component for the JSF was concluded at Britain’s biennial Farnborough International Airshow. Fokker Landing Gear signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Goodrich Corporation, which is the exclusive landing gear system supplier and integrator for the Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft.
The specific landing gear component is called a drag brace, which is a rod that locks the landing gear in place and ensures the landing gear remains in a locked position during landing. Traditionally, drag braces are made from aluminium or steel. Fokker Landing Gear and NLR will now however develop drag braces made from very strong and lightweight polymer matrix composites (PMC), which will mean the JSF will be lighter and consequently burn less fuel. PMC also requires less life-cycle maintenance.
Under the three-year agreement, Goodrich, Fokker and NLR will work together to design, qualify and produce prototype PMC drag braces to be incorporated into the main landing gear for F-35 conventional take-off/landing (CTOL) and short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variants.
NLR will largely be responsible for developing the new technologies and knowledge required for the composite drag brace. This knowledge and technology can later be applied in the civilian aviation industry.
Over the past two decades, NLR and Fokker Landing Gear (a division of Fokker) have jointly conducted comprehensive studies aimed at replacing metal landing gear components with composites. TheseÂ projects involved NLR identifying and testing various composite materials, from which the applicable composite was selected. In addition, NLR developed the manufacturing technology for composite landing gear components and supported Fokker Landing Gear in the design of these components. Fokker Landing Gear then tested the NLR manufactured prototypes. Since 2001, F-16 test flightsÂ have been conducted with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Defense.