Article Link: http://articles.sae.org/14535/ (Airbus looks to expand military product lines)
Problem to Be Solved: Airbus wants to keep building on their current designs of military transports to make them more versatile, more efficient, and ready to take on any task that a military will need out of a primary transport aircraft such as search and rescue, aerial firefighting, radar jamming, surface welfare, and aerial photography.
Proposed Solution: I think Airbus has a lot on their plate with this project to modify the C235, C295, and A400. They haven't come up with a solution for everything they plan on having the three planes do. However, they have come up with a plane that will be a longer-range version of the C295. The C295W Extended Range transport aircraft has winglets and enhanced engine performance. Winglets, for example help reduce the drag caused by the wingtip as a result of the generation of lift. According to Boeing's chief aerodynamicist, Robert Gregg, "adding winglets to their airlines have increased range by 5%". The C295W gets 8% increase in range with 4 tons of load, and also has a 5.5% advantage in the burning of fuel, due to the minimized drag that makes the plane not have to work that hard to fly. (Source for Boeing: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/heres-simple-reason-planes-winglets-200237569.html)
Other Approaches: I honestly think that Airbus did an outstanding job with extending the range of the C295. The only ways to extend range in an airplane that I could think of are winglets and enhanced engines, or just plain old larger fuel tanks. Larger fuel tanks aren't the answer in my opinion because they add so much more weight, which minimizes performance, and makes planes work harder to fly farther.
As for the in development firefighting variant, I'm not really sure what they could do. I've only seen firefighting aircraft have either an internal water tank with a bombay-like door that drops the load of water and fire retardant chemical. I've also seen a tank in the form of a boat hull like tank with some firefighting aircraft, such as SuperTanker 10. The internal tanks add weight to the aircraft which like before, decrease range. However, looking at the airplane, I don't think an external boathull tank will work because the plane is low to the ground, and there is just way too much engineering to be done for a short-term replacement. They are going to have to redo all wind tunnel tests, reengineer the landing gear, and find a way to make the hull aerodynamic. I think internal tanks are better in this case.
Next Step In Research: I think the next step in research is to find a way to make a light water tank that could hold a bunch of water and chemical. Those are pretty proven, as Lockheed Martin's C-130 Hercules has a similar modification to it with the internal tanks. Once done, they should load an A400M or C295 with the tank and do some flight testing with it. Easier said than done, but I think it will work later on.
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