Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research recently opened a new ballistics and impact dynamics research lab in the former Britt Brown Arena at the Kansas Coliseum. The new ballistics lab, part of NIAR’s environmental Test Labs, uses a custom built ballistic firing device to propel 22-50 caliber rounds into components inside a concrete containment building. The test is designed to simulate the impact of a structural failure on the aircraft.
The lab, led by director Paul Jonas, is one-of-a-kind and was designed specifically to better understand the dynamics of impact and material performance. The lab’s headquarters is a control tower built on the side of the former arena, which overlooks and monitors all activities. Testing occurs within a heavily reinforced 25-by-25-foot concrete containment building that is designed to capture ballistic rounds and contain potential failure of pressurized oxygen bottles.
The firing range consists of a unique containment concept in which the ballistic firing device can be easily relocated, yet provide the security of containing the projectile. The containment tower can also be used for drop tests up to 35 feet. High speed cameras and data recording equipment are an essential element of the lab.
“Everything in this lab had to be designed from scratch as there is nothing like it that we know of,” said Jonas. “The lab utilizes technologies from various engineering disciplines.”
The lab’s capabilities include the ability to accommodate various projectile styles including tumbling rounds, over-pressure burst testing and high-risk testing, ballistic impact of materials or structure under load, ballistic protection and impact loading, test of pressure vessels and oxygen tanks, bonfire testing and environmental testing. Rounds can be fired from 25, 50, 75 and 100 feet. The lab is also planning to add bird-strike and high velocity projectile capabilities later this year. The new test facility will be adjacent to the ballistic range and operated from the same control tower.