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Newsroom

High speed anniversary

Wind Tunnel
A supersonic wind has been blowing through BAE Systems' Warton site – but this is one jet stream that continues to put a smile on people’s faces.

The High Speed Wind Tunnel (HSWT) testing facility has been blasting the winds of change through Warton since 1959. It’s helped shape everything from the original Lightning to the UAVs of tomorrow. And now it’s celebrating its 40,000th run.

First commissioned in September 1959, the HSWT still makes the mind boggle. It gobbles 15 tons of air in 20 seconds when running at full power. It can run at subsonic, transonic and supersonic speeds. It has been a crucial element in the development of MAI’s most important aircraft – and it plays a major role in shaping the development of weapons stores across a range of aircraft.

Recently the facility completed the 34th test campaign on what is known as ‘Model FC4’ – a 1/20th scale model of Typhoon which is helping improve the weapons-release process for potential Typhoon export customers. Approximately 50 new store models have been created for these current wind tunnel tests by the Engineering Solutions Facility team at Warton.

Mark Thompson, the Capability Lead for Aerodynamic Flight Systems and Test, said: “This is an exceptional test facility and we are extremely proud of what we have achieved over the years. We’ve worked on everything from the TSR2, the EAP, the Tornado and the original Lightning right through to a current batch of testing on the Eurofighter Typhoon. We’ve also done a huge amount of work on weapons stores and it continues to be an important part of our work.”

Mark added that productivity rates at the facility are currently better than ever with the facility now carrying out up to 12 runs a day – almost double the number done previously.

Over £4million has recently been invested in the Wind Tunnel facilities at Warton ensuring that they are capable of continuing to shape aircraft and weapons store design for years to come. And, with an increasing focus on unmanned air vehicles where the human constraints of carrying life on board do not apply, exactly how their work will ‘shape up’ in the future is still a question for much conjecture.

One thing that is for sure is that the Wind Tunnel facilities will continue to be a focus of interest at Warton – and that the work undertaken will be as varied and often secret as ever…

Facts about the Wind Tunnel facilities

The 1.2m HSWT is an intermittent blowdown tunnel. The tunnel provides variable Reynolds number testing over a range of Mach numbers. The tunnel has been utilised extensively to support Typhoon development, encompassing various test techniques including intake, after body and live store tests. The facility also has the capability to simultaneously pitch and roll missile models, delivering high levels of productivity.

  • Speed Range: Subsonic/Transonic: - Mach 0.40 to 1.14; Supersonic: - Mach 1.40 to 3.80
  • Run time up to 30 seconds
  • Working Sections – tandem 1.2m high x 1.2m wide