Plans for UK hypersonic aircraft revealed at Farnborough Airshow

The new programme aims to establish the UK as a leader in hypersonic flight technology
The new programme aims to establish the UK as a leader in hypersonic flight technology

A team of UK industry, military and government has revealed plans to deliver a hypersonic aircraft to enhance defence capabilities. 

Reaction Engines, Rolls-Royce, the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), the UK government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the UK’s National Security Strategic Investment Fund (NSSIF) announced the details at Farnborough Airshow this week.

Building on the high-speed propulsion technologies and extensive research and development capabilities of the partners, the Hypersonic Air Vehicle Experimental (HVX) Programme aims to establish the UK as a leader in reusable hypersonic air systems.

Supported by funding from NSSIF, an agile project team has been established to rapidly develop critical high-Mach/hypersonic technologies, including novel air-breathing propulsion architectures, innovative thermal management systems and advanced vehicle concepts. In addition, a full-scale experimental engine test campaign has now commenced.

HVX’s immediate objective is to rapidly mature technologies that can deliver a step-change reduction in the cost of developing a reusable high-Mach/hypersonic air vehicle.

The HVX programme announcement was made at Farnborough Airshow this week

Reaction Engines’ novel precooler and SABRE combined-cycle engine technologies are key foundations for the programme. In combination with Rolls-Royce’s gas turbine technology, this brings capability to take on the challenging problems inherent with hypersonic flight.

Additionally, the programme is undertaking design work on experimental hypersonic vehicle concepts. At Farnborough, a single engine hypersonic concept vehicle – Concept V – has been unveiled. This example vehicle is one of a number of concept designs in active development by the Programme.

It is expected that the HVX Programme will be expanded to include other leading aerospace companies to ensure that additional expertise is deployed to support the delivery of this breakthrough technology. The programme also aims to ensure that the technologies developed can be utilised by other high Mach/hypersonic applications, having synergy with space access and rapid point-to-point transportation.

Mark Thomas, chief executive of Reaction Engines, said: “Reaction Engines is excited to be leading this ambitious, future-focused, programme with the Rapid Capabilities Office and Strategic Partners, bringing together the best of the best in technology, talent and innovation, to provide the UK with a unique capability in reusable hypersonic systems.”

John Wardell, director future programme at Rolls-Royce, added: “This collaboration will enable Rolls-Royce to work effectively alongside Reaction Engines and our strategic partners to develop innovative and cutting-edge technologies that will provide our customers with the equipment needed to meet their military requirements. The HVX Programme will bring together an unique opportunity to raise the UK’s profile in our ability to develop both the skills and technology in the fast evolving area.” 

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