British companies have developed a new thermal metal coating for use on the flight deck of the UK Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) aircraft carriers.
The coating will protect the carriers’ flight decks from the heat generated by the thrusters of the new F-35B Lightning II fighter jets.
Developed by Aircraft Carrier Alliance in partnership with Tyne and Wear-based Monitor Coatings, the protective coating is a combination of aluminium and titanium that can endure heat levels of up to 1,500°C (2,700°F).
The coating is expected to provide protection through the life of the aircraft carriers and is considered a key part in the preparation of the first carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, for sea trial next year, followed by flight trials in 2018.
Of the total 19,000m² flight deck area of QEC carriers, the coating is applied on sections measuring 2,000m² by a specially developed robotic spray that fires powdered metal through a plasma jet at a temperature of approximately 10,000°C (18,000°F).
The molten drops quickly condense and flatten to create a 2.0–2.5mm thick, rough, tough coating with the steel structure.
The thermal coating work is expected to be completed prior to the sea trials.
Aircraft Carrier Alliance managing director Ian Booth said: “There is incredible momentum behind the programme to prepare HMS Queen Elizabeth for sea trials and integrate the F-35B Lightning II aircraft.
“Working with experts in the UK, we have developed a unique coating to provide the necessary protection to the flight deck of the aircraft carriers, and this will ensure they can deliver the UK’s carrier strike capability for the next 50 years.”
The UK Royal Navy’s QEC aircraft carriers are said to be the biggest and most powerful naval assets ever built, and are being constructed in alliance with Babcock, Thales, BAE Systems, and the UK Ministry of Defence.
The vessels will be deployed for a range of operations, including engaging in warfare while aiding in humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.