Students design new tow bar for AFGSC as senior design project

Louisiana Tech University Mechanical Engineering students recently showcased the results of a redesign of the B-52 tow bar via their senior design project for Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

“This B-52 towbar redesign project is a testament to how a seed investment, interdisciplinary academic curriculum, versatile research environment, and world-class students can create meaningful, high-impact solutions to problems that affect our national security,” said Dr. Sumeet Dua, President of Louisiana Tech Research Institute. “This effort supports our spectrum of research partnerships with the AFGSC, exposing our students and faculty to challenging research problems, leading to advanced scientific and engineering outcomes.”

A tow bar is needed in moving the B-52 aircraft while it is on the ground. The size of the tow bar — approximately 60 feet long and weighing 6,500 pounds — requires cargo space on the aircraft for shipment and approximately 6,000 pounds. of additional wood shoring for loading and unloading.

This project updates the B-52 tow bar design to render it collapsible, reduce the weight, and lessen the floor space occupied during shipment. The final design should:

  • Reduce shipping footprint
  • Redesign known failure points
  • Decrease the loading materials for transport by 25 percent

Senior design projects can cover topics ranging from redesigning legacy equipment, researching new technologies to improve processes, and developing software and hardware to investigating ways of improving workflow, and analyzing collected data to provide new insights.

“My office seeks to solve Air Force Global Strike Command problems using the considerable talent in this region’s universities. In this case, we sponsored a senior design project at Louisiana Tech University. The students explored a variety of solutions, and I expect their design to ultimately be used for B-52 aircraft,” said AFGSC Chief Scientist Dr. Donna Senft. “In addition, our sponsorship helps inform the Command of emerging technologies, which could potentially result in further research or solution development while providing exposure of higher education staff, faculty, and students to AFGSC culture, challenges, and potential career opportunities.”

The project is managed by the Cyber Innovation Center via its Partnership Intermediary Agreement with AFGSC. Josh Fisher, project manager for the senior design project, said their relationship as the trusted partner allowed the CIC to engage Louisiana Tech’s talent quickly and efficiently for this project.

“This project exposed Louisiana Tech senior students to real world issues and allowed them to apply their knowledge and education to designing, testing, and building a proof-of-concept solution. The results of this prototype solution provided valuable market research to AFGSC and helped inform their requirements for a new B-52 tow bar,” Fisher added.

The tow bar prototype will now undergo further analysis and refinement by AFGSC.


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