Military

Rolls-Royce developing advanced jet engine to power Tempest fighter

Rolls-Royce developing advance...
Artist's concept of the Tempest
Artist's concept of the Tempest
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Artist's concept of the Tempest
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Artist's concept of the Tempest
Advanced engine infographic
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Advanced engine infographic

Rolls-Royce has revealed the radical state-of-the-art jet engine that will power the UK's Tempest fighter plane when it enters service in 2035. Currently in its fifth year of development, the new engine will not only provide thrust for the supersonic warfighter but also unprecedented amounts of electricity to power future energy weapons and other systems.

Even though fifth-generation fighters like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II are just starting to be deployed in any great numbers, the major air forces of the world regard them as already obsolescent and are beginning to design and build the airplanes that will replace them. One of the front runners in the race is Britain's Tempest, which is being developed in partnership with Sweden and Italy.

As a sixth-generation fighter, the Tempest will, in many ways, be as big a leap over something like an F-18 Super Hornet as the Super Hornet is over a Second World War prop-driven fighter. Though designed to be fast and agile, the Tempest will also be designed for stealth and will be as much a command and control system and dynamic sensor platform as a fighter. In fact, with its artificial intelligence systems and deep learning, the pilot will act more as an executive officer than a dogfighter.

The problem is that the Tempest will be a very thirsty beast when it comes to electricity, producing unprecedented levels of power demand and thermal loads due to its carrying lasers and other energy weapons, advanced sensors and avionics, and swarming technologies. This means that the old engines that were made mainly to pump out thrust aren't up to the job.

Advanced engine infographic
Advanced engine infographic

This is why Rolls-Royce has been spending the last five years working on the next-generation engine for the next-generation fighter. At its core, it features an electrical starter-generator that was fully embedded in the core of a gas turbine engine that began life in 2014 as the Embedded Electrical Starter Generator (E2SG) demonstrator program, and takes a new approach to fighter design that places much more emphasis on providing electrical power in large quantities directly from the engine.

"The electrical embedded starter-generator will save space and provide the large amount of electrical power required by future fighters," says Conrad Banks, Chief Engineer for Future Programmes at Rolls-Royce. "Existing aircraft engines generate power through a gearbox underneath the engine, which drives a generator. In addition to adding moving parts and complexity, the space required outside the engine for the gearbox and generator makes the airframe larger, which is undesirable in a stealthy platform."

Instead of a generator, the new Rolls-Royce engine uses two electrical generators set on two spools that allow them to act as either motors or generators by transferring power from one to another. It's also hoped that this arrangement will make the engine more responsive and efficient.

In addition, the engine has a new energy storage system. There is also an intelligent power and engine control system to manage the power network by means of algorithms that make real-time decisions about how to handle energy demand as well as reduce thermal loads, which will prolong component life. This is aided by the fully integrated heat management system, and exhaust reheat system with improved efficiency, and a lighter, aerodynamically optimized fan that's made of temperature-resistant composites.

Now entering Phase two, the new power plant has been integrated into Britain's Tempest program. According to Rolls-Royce, its development is in response to the recognition that all future military vehicles will need much more electricity to complete their missions and is such a departure that it required the building of new testing facilities that allow gas turbines to be directly connected to a DC electrical network.

The company says that the third phase of the program will concentrate on thermal management and the addition of more electric engine accessories and will culminate with building a full-scale demonstrator engine, though when this will be completed has yet to be announced.

Source: Rolls-Royce

11 comments
Phil Mayfield
The Tempest to me looks like an advanced version of the Avro Arrow - the Mark III version being conceptualized before the Mark II even flew. The engine config is similar to the Orenda Iroquois, so similar it is spooky. Likewise the Tempest engine air intakes almost identical to the Arrow Mark III. Regrettably the Arrow program was cancelled for all the wrong reasons but died nonetheless. It is interesting to see some of it being reenvisioned some 60+ years since the Arrow Mark I flew here in Canada. A tip of the hat to Jim Floyd et.al. of the Arrow Program - you were so far ahead of your time. Sad to think of where we might have been now had it gone ahead. Hope the Tempest doesn't suffer the same fate as the Arrow.
Tim Sparks
In US the plan is the F-22 and F-35 will be the last manned fighters for all service branches. (Currently the F-35A, B & C are being used in the Airforce, Marines and Navy). The Sixth generation will be unmanned advanced Drone-Fighters flown by pilots on the ground. There are over 7,000 Drones just in US Airforce service today. The Navy last year successfully flew and landed a drone off the deck of a carrier. For yall Europeans that would be your 7th generation to you.
Nobody
This all sounds so wonderful and high tech and EXPENSIVE. But as recent events have shown a few programing bugs can cancel it all out. Trying to control a battle field with such high tech is very likely to fail. Swarming the battlefield with low tech and reliable weapons can not be avoided. Large numbers of inexpensive drones would be a better way to stretch the defense budget. High tech will always be plagued with defects and reliability problems. We will always need high tech but shear brute force will likely win the war. The AK47 is a good example. Lower tech, cheap, reliable, and every enemy has one.
Eddy
A bit silly broadcasting this new tech to our enemies in my opinion, kind of defeats the word Stealth.
stuart05
In reply to Tim Sparks the plan in the UK 50 years ago was that the Lightning was to be the last manned fighter, it didn't quite turn out that way. As for the Tempest it is considerably built upon work previously being worked on by BAE called Replica from the 90s. It was the advanced technology of that proposal that helped the UK obtain the only Level 1 partnership in the F35 project with much of its technology transferred into that project in exchange for the Replica to be shelved. UK, Sweden, Italy and no doubt others as it progresses certainly have the nous to produce an extremely advanced 5.5 to 6th Gen fighter only the cost of doing so will be a potential restriction on the final design. More importantly the Tempest project ha not yet decided as to whether it will be manned, unmanned or with both options the last of those being the starting point for the design as originally reported so all options are open so that technology over the years can dictate which is most appropriate. The US projects in equally early stages have not as yet committed to any of those options as yet for similar reasons Its all about open minds. One also has to state when talking about supposed US superiority in aircraft technology that its two latest Aircraft carriers can't even operate the F35 as yet while the bulk the US inventory is still outmoded F18, F16 and F15 fighters which are all good aircraft but are far from being state of the art or as good as many aircraft in other airforces. They are deemed good enough to be effective within the over whelming and sophisticated advantage the US military especially at Sea can bring to bear to support their use which hides their relative obselesence. Only the F22 is truly a world beater as things stands and Russia and China already have aircraft that arguably match those in performance though only real life conflict will prove that to be the case or otherwise. However they are in short supply are no longer built and have a poor availability record. The position in 5 years could also be very different in balance of capabilities while the F35 relies very much on its stealth to be competitive, lose that and a Typhoon amongst other 4th/5th Gen fighters would likely make mincemeat of it. Fact id the US is likely not much closer to a working replacement for those aircraft that Tempest or the Franco/German efforts to produce such an aircraft is, the F-35 has taken up practically all the resources on that front and only now can serious thoughts about the next gen fighter truly be contemplated beyond early paper projects. So it is probably best for all concerned to be a little more thoughtful and circumspect over ill judged hyperbole that is too often used when trying to score xenophobic points becomes the priority.
Gx Marius
interesting who is going to pay for this when you have so many social problems in UK !!!???
buzzclick
This tit-for-tat madness to develop the most efficient and deadly killing machines is a royal pain in my arse. I realize it's not going away anytime soon, unfortunately, but to read posts above from armament tech junkies who state matter-of-factly that it's a normal and acceptable form of competition between states, is as worrisome to me as the effects of open warfare that don't seem to concern them.
Kpar
One of the developmental problems in the history of the F-35 is sufficient cooling for electronics and follow-on directed energy weapons- something that had never come up til now. Using a non-mechanical (no gearbox) generating system is certainly a good idea, but it's not that groundbreaking.
jocco
when is somebody going to make the whole cockpit part of the ejection seat setup?
bwana4swahili
Isn't it wonderful how much money, resources and effort homo sapiens spend on weapons to kill each other!