The prospect of significant reduction in aircraft structural mass has motivated the United States Air Force (USAF) and the aerospace industry to incorporate composite structures in their aircraft designs. The USAF found threats to structural integrity such as moisture, temperature, delaminations, and impact damage that made them take a cautious approach for the acquisition of aircraft with composite materials. Each of these threats acted as an inhibitor to using these materials in the design of operational aircraft. However, the USAF has successfully incorporated composites on several aircraft, including the B-2, C-17, and F-22. The challenge is to find new approaches for the qualification of composite structures that will make them more economically viable for future procurements. It is the purpose of this paper to discuss the background for the current qualification program for composites and suggest some possibilities for improvement of the certification process.
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