Engineers are exploring more accurate and efficient means of detecting structural damage to F-4 airframes, using an RF-4C Phantom at the Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill AFB, Utah. Experimenting with the RF-4, technicians with Hill’s 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group are investigating techniques such as infrared thermography and laser interferometry in order to establish new procedures for advanced non-destructive testing. These techniques would replace the laborious and often inaccurate tap and ultrasound testing on F-4s eyed for conversion into QF-4 target drones. Before technicians can regenerate F-4s stored at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., they must thoroughly inspect them to verify that their composite structures have not deteriorated. “Because of the age of the planes, we want to avoid any possible misfortune during flight,” said Terry Watson of the 309th AMG. (Hill report by Anne Morrison)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.