Laser shock peening verified for use on US military aircraft

Share this on social media:

Laser shock peening was used to strengthen the frame of the F-35B Lightning II aircraft. (Image: FRCE)

The US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) has completed verification of a laser shock peening process, which has successfully been used on a F-35B Lightning II aircraft that has since returned to active service.

Laser shock peening uses a pulsed laser to induce deep, high-magnitude compressive residual stresses inside materials, which increase their hardness and resistance to cracking and fatigue failure. 

The stress waves in the materials are generated from a rapidly expanding plasma that forms on their surface when struck with the pulsed laser beam. 

The process was used by FRCE to strengthen the frame of the F-35B Lightning II without adding any additional material or weight, which would otherwise limit its fuel or weapons carrying capacity. This helps extend the life expectancy of the fifth-generation fighter, which is a short takeoff-vertical landing variant flown by the US Marine Corps. 

Verification of the process was achieved through a combination of inspection, analysis, demonstration and testing that took place over approximately 15,000 labour hours. The verification validates the engineering instruction, the tooling, the supply system and other factors associated with the process, ensuring quality control by confirming it meets system-level requirements.

‘Verification makes the process repeatable,’ said Scott Nelson, F-35 Joint Program Office induction manager at FRCE. ‘You could take that instruction now and go complete this modification anywhere in the world if you had an LSP facility because all the steps are correct and in the right order. You have everything you need to do it.’

Related: Laser peening to treat aluminium plates on naval combat ships

FRCE completed construction on a $6 million, purpose-built laser shock peening facility in August 2019, and inducted the first F-35 to undergo the procedure in June 2020. Achieving the verification milestone required a cooperative effort by a multidisciplinary team that spans FRCE, the F-35 Joint Program Office, the aircraft manufacturer and the contractors that developed and conducted the laser peening procedure.

In addition to FRCE and the F-35 Joint Program Office, the venture’s stakeholders include Lockheed Martin, Curtiss-Wright Surface Technologies and Northrup Grumman.

‘The laser shock peening modification is essential to extending the life of the F-35B STOVL variant, and the ability to complete this procedure successfully allows FRC East to support this critical workload,’ said FRCE commanding officer Col. Thomas Atkinson. ‘Standing up this strategic capability positions FRC East as a readiness multiplier for the future of Marine Corps aviation, and I’m proud of the hard work and dedication shown by the team in achieving verification of the process and returning the first laser shock peened F-35 aircraft to the fleet.’

Navigation

Navigation

Navigation

Navigation

Navigation

Navigation

Sanin Zulic and Sunil Pathak share how laser shock peening can be used to improve residual stresses in additively manufactured parts

07 March 2022

Hot-fire testing of a GRCop-42 L-PBF chamber and NASA HR-1 LP-DED nozzle with integral channels at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. (Image: NASA)

03 February 2022

Sanin Zulic and Sunil Pathak share how laser shock peening can be used to improve residual stresses in additively manufactured parts

07 March 2022

Alexandre Rondepierre and Olivier Casagrande demonstrate a new approach that overcomes existing laser shock peening challenges

25 February 2022

Jan Keuntje and Peter Jäschke have developed a macroscopic finite element model to help establish laser cutting in serial CFRP component production

29 September 2022

Handheld laser cleaning devices are a popular choice in industry for delivering the beam to the workpiece. (Image: Shutterstock/Surasak_Photo)

15 September 2022

The automated cell has capacity to repair 85,000 aviation titanium compressor blades per year (Image: Optomec)

14 September 2022