As the replacement costs of military aircraft escalate, there is an increasing trend to operate existing aircraft well
beyond their original design life. As the fleet ages, structural problems such as airframe corrosion and cracking are becoming significant issues. In recent years, bonded composite patches or doublers have been developed to repair or reinforce defective regions of the airframe. However certification concerns have limited most application of these bonded composite repairs to secondary structures. In order to alleviate certification concerns, and thus facilitate the implementation of this repair technology to critical damage in primary structure, the 'smart patch' approach has been proposed. This approach involves incorporating sensors into the composite patch to self-monitor patch health. This paper describes the use of optical fibre Bragg gratings to measure the changes in thermal residual strain that occur when a composite patch starts to disbond from the parent structure. Conventionally, the Bragg sensing mechanism relies on a shift in reflected wavelength, which requires the use of costly optical measurement tools. A modified sensing arrangement is proposed, which incorporates two Bragg gratings, and a fibre optic coupler. The reflection from the first Bragg grating acts as a reference source for an active Bragg grating on the patch. This modified arrangement allows a relative wavelength shift to be translated into a change in the optical power, which can be measured easily using a low cost interrogation system. The modified sensing arrangement also allows us to more readily miniaturise the opto-electrical interrogation system, thus enabling these systems to be more easily implemented on operational aircraft.