GKN Aerospace has signed a development agreement with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) covering the design, development, and manufacture of fuel bladders for the MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) system.
The agreement covers the fuel bladder system for the first production aircraft slated for 2018, with a potential full contract value of $15 million when the aircraft enters into service with NATO’s UAV Airworthiness Requirements (defined in STANAG 4671). MQ-9B is a type-certifiable version of GA-ASI’s Predator B product line.
GKN Aerospace will work in conjunction with GA-ASI to design and manufacture the fuel bladders at the GKN Aerospace facility in Tallassee, Alabama. The proven engineering process includes a vacuum forming process, coupled with the latest polyurethane (PU) material, which is durable and lightweight. The new fuel bladder also includes improved rubber fittings to provide better tear resistance.
Vacuum forming allows GKN Aerospace to create fuel bladders in complex shapes that fully exploit all available space on the MQ-9B airframe, maximizing the fuel load capacity and platform endurance. These developments also produce a bladder system with a lower parts count, simplifying manufacture, bladder installation, and system support.
Staffan Svensson, vice president of GKN Aerospace Special Products Group said: “We look forward to working with GA-ASI to provide a vital fuel system solution for this long-endurance Predator B platform variant. We have been supplying fuel systems for many decades and for many airframe platforms and MQ-9B fully exploits all our recent advances in both manufacturing and materials technologies.”