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The Melting Deck Plates Muddle
by James Dunnigan
December 2, 2009

Earlier this year, the U.S. Navy discovered that the heat from the MV-22's gas turbine engines, which blow their exhaust right on to the deck of the LHD while waiting to take off, caused high enough temperatures to the steel under the deck plates, to possibly warp the understructure. This was already a known potential problem with the new F-35B vertical takeoff jet fighter. So now the navy has two hot new aircraft that require an innovative solution to the melting deck problem. The navy also discovered that the exhaust heat problem varied in intensity between different classes of helicopter carriers (each with a different deck design.)

The navy is looking for a solution that will not require extensive modification of current carrier decks. This includes a lot of decks, both the eleven large carriers, and the ten smaller LHAs and LHDs. This is shaping up as another multi-billion dollar "oops" moment, as the melting deck problem was never brought up during the long development of either aircraft. Previously, the Harrier was the only aircraft to put serious amounts of heat on the carrier deck, but not enough to do damage. But when you compare the Harrier engine with those on the V-22 and F-35B, you can easily see that there is a lot more heat coming out of the two more recent aircraft. Someone should have done the math before it became a real problem.

 


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