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Air Force tests oxygen system for T-7 Red Hawk

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate is currently testing the On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) that will go on the T-7 Red Hawk trainer.

“We’re testing a brand new configuration of OBOGS,” said Jessica Allen, T-7A Crew Systems lead with the directorate. “The configuration we’re going to be using on the T-7 has not been used on any other platform. It’s going to consist of our primary breathing gas system and our auxiliary backup oxygen system.”

Designed to produce an unlimited supply of oxygen for pilots, OBOGS are a critical system for fighter and trainer aircraft. Working closely with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing and AFLCMC’s Life Support Systems Scientific Test Analysis and Qualification (LSSSTAQ) lab, the directorate is working to gather important data and ensure the system will properly operate and supply the pilots with oxygen.

The tests have been divided into three phases. The first phase was conducted at the LSSSTAQ lab and consisted of unmanned altitude chamber testing. The Scientific Test and Analysis Techniques Center of Excellence used design of experiments to assist in dynamic changing of parameters during testing runs. This allowed for 40 times more information to be collected on the T-7 OBOGS system compared to other platforms.

In phase two, the team collaborated with the 711th HPW, using their human-rated centrifuge and the newly man-rated Research Altitude Chambers to conduct manned and unmanned acceleration testing and manned altitude chamber testing. For this phase, volunteer Air Force pilots and volunteer human subject panel members were used.

“The LSSSTAQ lab did an extensive job testing and challenging the system during the first phase, which gave us a high level of confidence moving forward into the manned testing phase,” said Maj. Daniel Catrambone, Research Physiology Operations lead at the 711th HPW.

Acceleration testing was performed in the centrifuge in gradual and rapid onset rates up to 8.5Gs.

“With that [manned altitude testing] we did everything from BOS duration testing to breathing impedance testing, where we had subjects peddling on bicycles to simulate workload in the aircraft, to rapid decompression testing that covered the gamut of the operational envelope for the T-7,” Allen said. “We had 18 different human subject panel members and 10 fighter pilot volunteers.”

The third phase of testing is scheduled to begin soon in the LSSSTAQ lab and will be comprised of environmental testing.

Upon completion of phase three, the OBOGS system will be installed onto five T-7 aircraft for flight testing later this year.

“Our No. 1 priority is to make sure that T-7 pilots are able to fly, land and carry out their training mission successfully,” said Shanika Sims, Air Vehicle Branch chief for the directorate’s T-7 Red Hawk Division. “Therefore, it is important that we ensure that the OBOGS work as intended.”