GA-ASI Completes First Lifetime for Full-Scale Fatigues Test on MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft

On Dec. 5, 2023, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) completed a major milestone with the full-scale fatigue testing of an MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).

The team completed the “first lifetime” of fatigue testing – which is equivalent to 40,000 operating hours – and represents an important step in validating the design of the airframe system.

The testing is part of the aircraft certification to the NATO standard STANAG 4671, where the aircraft will ultimately be tested through three lifetimes, thereby proving the 40,000 hour lifetime of the airframe.

The full-scale fatigue test simulates the aircraft’s design service through the application of repeated structural loading on the assembled airframe.

The testing identifies any potential structural deficiencies ahead of fleet usage and assists in developing inspection and maintenance schedules for the airframe.

The results of the test will be used as a part of the documentation for certification, as well as form the basis for in-service inspections of structural components.

MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPA and includes the SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® models, as well as the new Protector RG Mk 1 that is currently being delivered to the U.K. Royal Air Force.

The testing is the validation of years of design and analysis efforts. This is the first of three lifetimes of testing for the airframe.

Two of the lifetimes simulate the operation of an aircraft under normal conditions, and the third lifetime has intentional damage inflicted on the airframe’s critical components to demonstrate its resistance to operational damage that may occur in the lifetime of the air vehicle.

Testing was conducted Dec. 13, 2022-Dec. 5, 2023, at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita, Kan. The airframe tested is a production airframe purpose-built to support the test campaign.

About GA-ASI

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable RPA systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator® RPA series and the Lynx® Multi-mode Radar.

With more than eight million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent situational awareness.

The company also produces a variety of sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas.