QinetiQ puts military equipment to the test

  • 19-Jun-2008 08:50 EDT

QinetiQ has been undertaking extreme environment testing of U.K. Ministry of Defence vehicles tasked with moving vital supplies such as ammunition, food, and water across rough terrain in extreme environments.

QinetiQ operates a variety of test and evaluation facilities across the U.K. that offer what it says are “strategic capabilities of national importance,” delivering life-cycle system analyses to increase equipment reliability and durability. Such facilities include electromagnetic compatibility chambers; various real-time simulators covering all types of vehicles; test and vibration rigs; land, sea, and air test and evaluation ranges; a suite of human physiology testing facilities; and specialist materials and physical testing capabilities.

QinetiQ’s main temperature control chamber is 24.5 x 25 x 5.4 m (80 x 82 x 18 ft) with a 6.75-m (22-ft) recess for aircraft fins. Environmental conditions can be constantly controlled between -70 to +70°C (-94 to +158°F). Humidity control is between ambient and 95% ±5% relative humidity at 40°C (104°F) and sun effect (using solar arrays) are available throughout most of the temperature range. A second temperature control chamber measuring 5 x 4 x 7.5 m (16 x 13 x 25 ft) is also available with similar humidity and sun-effect control. The size of the large chamber enables a small fleet of vehicles to be tested simultaneously. The facility can also host what QinetiQ refers to as “habitability trials” to examine the man-to-vehicle interface and survivability.

Environmental chambers are available for checking electrical and hydraulic systems via ground test rigs. The chambers have available a supply of cold air to run auxiliary power units (APUs). Exhaust gases can be ducted to the outside of the building, allowing trials to be conducted with APUs and engines running. Propellers (but not rotors) can be run continuously within the test environment. Layers of ice can also be applied to the test equipment within the chamber to check its operation under icing conditions.

In that context, QinetiQ recently completed a series of rigorous environmental trials on 12 different types of MAN military logistic trucks in its test chambers at UK MOD Boscombe Down, part of an independent 18-month evaluation contract for the new supply-vehicles fleet for the MOD.

Over three separate six-week phases, the 12 vehicle types were subjected to temperatures between -46 to +49°C (-51 to +120°F). The first phase simulated desert hot/dry conditions going to 49°C (120°F) with solar levels for a typical day cycle reaching 1120 W/m2. The second created tropical hot/wet conditions at around 40°C (104°F) but with relative humidity levels of 80%. Phase three consisted of subjecting military equipment to recreated Arctic temperatures of -46°C (-51°F) for specially prepared winterized vehicles and -32°C (-26°F) for the standard fleet.

During each of the phases every piece of equipment, on each of the vehicles, was regularly tested to ensure it functioned consistently in the various conditions. This comprehensive list of tests included engine starts and crew heating and cooling systems, right down to operating the wiper blades and brakes. All ancillary items including winches, pumps, and cranes were similarly tested to the same standards.

In addition to testing military and other land vehicles, QinetiQ’s climatic environment chambers can accommodate other equipment including large commercial road and rail vehicles. The chambers are also applicable to aerospace, with the ability to simulate the conditions aircraft, aerospace systems, and aircrew regularly experience.

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