Conceived as a cooperative idea for the development of a next-generation combat aircraft, the French Future Combat Air System (SCAF) has just received a major boost.
Although it has been in the pipes for some time, the renewed push and equal commitment from all stakeholders has gotten it moving. This new development could prove to be a major breakthrough in the FCAS program.
France has tested a prototype engine for the Next Generation Fighter (NGF) that it is developing alongside Germany and Spain as part of the larger Future Combat Air System (FCAS)/Système de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF) .
On January 10, the DGA announced that a prototype engine from the Turenne program had successfully passed a ground test, using a power plant adapted from the Snecma M88, which now powers the Dassault Rafale combat aircraft.
“At the end of 2021, the General Directorate of Armaments [DGA] completed a major test for the development of the next engine of the [NGF] fighter planes of the [FCAS/] SCAF. As part of the Turenne defense technology project piloted by the DGA, a prototype derived from the engine of the Rafale fighter plane was tested on a test bench,” specifies the DGA.
The new engine was envisioned as one that would have more thrust than the Rafales and Eurofighter Typhoons so that the new aircraft would effectively replace these two long-term combat aircraft. High thrust means higher temperature.
Thus, last year, the ADAMANT research project (Acceleration of the Development of Alloys and Multilayer Systems for Application to New Turbines) was announced by the Ministry of the Armed Forces.
It brings together the Department of Purchasing and Innovation (DGA) of the ministry, ONERA and Safran, a French engine manufacturer, as reported by Aerotime Hub.
News: #MTU Aero Engines, #Saffron aircraft engines, and #ITP Aero has reached an overall agreement on cooperation to provide a jointly developed, produced and supported engine to power the next-generation fighter (#NGF), which is a central element of #FCAS. https://t.co/fdShGdiKFw pic.twitter.com/OUgGw2QdtN
– MTU Aero Engines (@MTUaeroeng) April 29, 2021
Following this, Safran Aircraft Engines of France, MTU Aero Engines of Germany and ITP Aero of Spain entered into a comprehensive agreement on the development, production and support of a combined engine for the Next Generation Fighter (NGF) to feed the FCAS program. .
How is this engine different?
“This test is distinguished by the technique used, called Thermocolor, which requires a heat-sensitive paint; applied to the blades of the blades of the high pressure turbine of the engine, it measures the temperature thanks to a change of color”, specifies the DGA in a press release.
The conditions for this experiment would have taken five years to prepare. After reviewing the first test results, the project will move on to a “durability” test that is expected to last several months.
The Next Generation Fighter (NGF), a sixth-generation combat aircraft produced by France, Germany and Spain under the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), will require more powerful engines than its predecessors, according to the French Ministry of the Armed Forces. Forces.
Major test for the development of the engine of the combat aircraft of the #CAFS ➡️ DGA Propellant Testing tested on the test bench a prototype derived from the M88 engine of the #Gust with the “Thermocolor” technique, the rest here ➡️https://t.co/tL2Bp1sqt4#OurDefense pic.twitter.com/p3oIMsl2o3
– Directorate General of Armaments (@DGA) January 11, 2022
The higher the thrust, the higher the temperature must be. At the turbine inlet, temperatures can exceed 2100 Kelvin (1826.85 degrees Celsius), which is 250 Kelvin (250 degrees Celsius) higher than the M88. Such circumstances are beyond the capabilities of current materials, the French ministry said at the start of the engine program.
Information previously obtained indicated that Safran and MTU Aero Engines should focus on their own areas of expertise in engine development. The first will be responsible for overseeing the development of hot engine components as well as integration activities. The cold components will be taken care of by the latter, which will also provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services.
In addition, Safran’s Director of Research, Technology and Innovation, Stéphane Cueille, had previously highlighted the advances needed to produce an improved engine for the SCAF fighter.
He said in a Safran press release that: “This next-generation combat aircraft should be able to both produce strong supersonic thrust and cruise at low speeds for long periods of time. Its engine must therefore be versatile. It will also be more compact to be lighter, and its thrust – much more powerful than that of the Rafale – will allow the [FCAS] carry more weapons.
The power plant that apparently powers the NGF engine was adopted by the M88 engine that currently powers the French 4.5 generation fighter, the Rafale.
So, since the new engine apparently has more thrust, it should outpace existing French fighters which have seen a resurgence in popularity and export in recent times. The engine would then be fully aligned with the need for a next-generation fighter, a sixth-generation aircraft, potentially a stealth aircraft that should surpass any combat aircraft that Europe has ever developed.
— Shephard News (@ShephardNews) December 22, 2021
So while most of the test and specification details for this prototype engine remain unknown, it is believed to drive the FCAS program in a big way.
The program of the future combat air system
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS)/ Système de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF) is a sixth-generation stealth combat aircraft that was first shown at the Paris Air Show in 2019. It will replace the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter typhoon. fighter.
It is a networked system of systems that includes a next-generation fighter jet, a MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) drone, cruise missiles, drone swarms and other aircraft, according to Airbus. .
The Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS), which will include the Next Generation Fighter (NGF), Remote Carriers and Air Combat Cloud, will serve as the cornerstone of the SCAF.
Spain became the first country to join the Future Combat Air System/Système de Combat Aérien Futur (FCAS/SCAF) program in 2019. In Brussels, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles signed the agreement with her French and German counterparts, Florence Parly and Ursula von der Leyen.
Member States declared in September 2021 that they would finance phase 1B (2021-2024) with €3.6 billion or €1.2 billion each and that they would continue to collaborate until the prototype of Europe’s new sixth-generation fighter is ready to fly. The development phases of the FCAS program are expected to last 32 to 40 months.
The SCAF initiative is crucial for the coordinated military strategy of the three European countries. Its advancements have a similar impact on maintaining technological parity and sovereignty with major world powers and exceed even the capabilities of the world’s most advanced fighter jets. The engine test is a step in that direction, although it remains at a preliminary stage.