Military aircraft are melting shipdecks?

DARPA wants system to mitigate deck buckling caused by jet and prop aircraft

I have to wonder why the Navy in particular didn't see this one coming.  Military scientists at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) this week said they was looking for technology the military can use to stop aircraft landing decks on aircraft carriers and other ships from buckling and melting. 

DARPA says that the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor, turboprop-driven aircraft that can take off vertically has resulted in ship flight deck buckling that has been attributed to the excessive heat impact from engine exhaust plumes. Navy studies have indicated that repeated deck buckling will likely cause deck failure before the planned end of a ship's life.  

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Of course a hovering prop-based aircraft likely won't do nearly the damage a hovering jet will and that's the rub. The melting problem will get worse with the planned deployment of the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighter which will use jets to launch vertically. 

Currently, there are no available strategies to mitigate deck buckling and thermal-mechanical deck failure other than heavy structural modifications, DARPA stated. 

What DARPA is looking for is a Thermal Management System that can be installed on top of the existing decks on amphibious assault ships, and can be used to mitigate the thermal loading that is applied by vertical and short take off and landing aircraft. The proposed system will need to incorporate a technology that is capable of removing the heat that is applied to the ship deck by the engine exhaust of aircraft.  

It will also require the identification and development of a thermally stable non-skid that can be applied to the thermal management heat spreader and operate in the extremely harsh environment of engine exhaust. 

DARPA adds that a major requirement for installing a heat spreader on the deck of a Navy amphibious assault craft is a thickness of less than one inch. If the heat spreader exceeds one inch thick, it will likely interfere with flight operations and will be considered an unacceptable solution. This thickness requirement dramatically increases the complexity of the heat spreader design because the system must also be passive while being capable of supporting the weight of aircraft including the F-35B and the MV-22. 

The F-35 and Osprey aren't the Navy's first aircraft to have vertical take-off and landing capabilities.  The Harrier, which the F-35 will largely replace, also had the capability and the same issues.  

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