Icon Polymer Group has provided its hose equipment to leading aerospace technology specialist Cobham for a new range of air-to-air refuelling systems which are set to become the norm for both new and aftermarket installation in military aircraft for the next three decades or more.
Icon Polymer has a pedigree of around 40 years in the development of in-flight refuelling hoses and has pioneered state-of-the-art materials and processes which meet Cobham's stringent approval parameters to the specification of leading aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus.
The hoses are produced in the UK using Icon Polymer's proprietary Icon Process Control (i-PC(TM)) system which allows the precision control of manufacturing, testing and verification processes that is necessary to deliver high-performance, safety-critical components.
One of the first applications for the new Icon hoses is on five new Airbus Military KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft - for which Icon Polymer is a globally approved source of supply of refuelling hoses - purchased by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Among the roles of these versatile aircraft is the refuelling of other aircraft in flight to increase their range when involved in exercises and operations worldwide.
Cobham's refuelling system, which includes the Icon Polymer hose consists of wing mounted hose and drogue refuelling pods fitted to the underside of the MRTT's wings, allows both the RAAF's own F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft and other allied aircraft to onload 7,000 lb (3,175 kg) of fuel in just six minutes.
The 98 ft long refuelling hoses - two per aircraft - boast highly fuel-resistant liners and remain flexible at the extreme temperatures - as low as -60ºC at heights of up to 40,000 ft - at which refuelling takes place.
The same technology as used on the RAAF fleet will also be used on a further consignment of 14 FSTA aircraft being purchased by the Royal Air Force which will be designated Voyager.
Damon Simpson of Icon Polymer explained: "Icon has over the past 30 to 40 years years remained at the forefront of developments in in-flight refuelling hose technology in terms of both design and materials development, manufacturing process control and continues to work with many of the leading players in aerospace. The demands on in-flight refuelling hoses are very specific due to the highly demanding conditions in which the hoses operate and their safety critical nature. All materials are highly engineered and controlled so that the specialised aviation fuel can be delivered in optimal condition, without affecting the performance of the delivery system.
Mike Sharps of Cobham added: "Icon Polymer has a good understanding for the challenges involved in aerial refuelling. Following extensive and rigorous testing of the new hose equipment, we are pleased that it meets all our expectations for outstanding performance and safety".
Icon Polymer is now working on a future generation of 'intelligent' products for this application that will include new materials based on nanotechnology and surface finish modification.