Rolls-Royce has been awarded a contract to develop hypersonic propulsion systems for increased aircraft performance and capability.

The MoD procurement arm, Defence Equipment and Support, intends to place a circa 2-year, single sourced contract, for a UK programme to undertake design studies, research, development, analysis and experimentation relating to high-Mach advanced propulsion systems.

The contract will be with Rolls-Royce Plc, (RR) and its technology partners, BAE Systems and Reaction Engines and will focus on enabling technologies for increased aircraft performance and capability.

Speaking at the 2019 Air and Space Power Conference, the UK’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said:

“As part of the technologies being developed in parallel with Project Tempest, I am delighted to reveal that in concert with Rolls-Royce, Reaction Engines and BAE Systems, we are developing hypersonic propulsion systems, which will be designed and tested over the next 2 years, paving the way for the UK to become a centre of excellence in this technology and contribute to meeting future UK Defence needs.”

Alex Zino, Director Business Development and Future Programmes said:

“Rolls-Royce will work closely with the UK MOD and our partners BAE Systems and Reaction Engines to conduct and coordinate research into high Mach advanced propulsion systems. 
“Going forward, this collaboration will allow us to focus on enabling innovative technologies for increased aircraft performance and capability.”

A joint industry statement by Rolls-Royce, Reaction Engines and BAE Systems welcomed the initiative:

“By bringing together acknowledged aerospace innovation capability from British companies, Rolls-Royce, Reaction Engines and BAE Systems, critical high Mach propulsion technology elements will be developed over the next 2 years, paving the way for a UK centre of excellence in this technology and contributing to meeting UK MOD future defence needs.

This work highlights the importance of collaboration with our partners and will allow us to focus on developing innovative technologies for increased aircraft performance and capability.”

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Gandalf
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Gandalf

Sweden and Saab will not be joining Tempest. Just some political bs about good intentions on collaboration on a vague concept of future combat air systems, but not the plane. It seems Sweden is commited to Gripen and improving it, with possible integration tech that result from this collaboration/analysis
It does not surprise me, since Sweden favours single engine and low cost solutions rather than complex and expensive system
Here is the press conference at Riat https://www.facebook.com/BAESystemsplc/videos/337639690518949/
Saabs press release
https://saabgroup.com/media/news-press/news/2019-07/saab-comments-on-swedish-uk-future-combat-air-announcement/
And Swedish government press release
https://www.government.se/press-releases/2019/07/sweden-and-united-kingdom-sign-agreement-on-development-of-future-combat-aircraft-capabilities

chaz baz
Guest
chaz baz

If it works, will is stay British???? If it does then this is very exciting. If it gets bought out and goes abroad or is stolen by china then?? blaaaaa

James Harrington
Guest
James Harrington

all three are likely to occur, dismal thoughts I know.

Expat
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Expat

China’s already ahead when it comes to hypersonics. A good start would be to hack Chinese servers. They’ve been doing it to us for years.

Sanely
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Sanely

Yes China is developing hypersonic weapon for years, but all of it hypersonic technology is entirely focus in missiles and gliding warhead(which include propulsion system), is not for aircraft, which is significant difference to this initiative.

Steve
Guest
Steve

just like they are hacking our servers, we will be hacking theirs, just a question of how good their security is.

turk
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turk

simple answer no, they’re (reaction) opening a test facility in the US (probably open already) also you have to remember BAE and RR have no real reason to keep the tech/manufacturing in the UK as BAE are a multinational company (most of the work they do is outside of the UK) and RR a owned by a hedge fund who are only interested in money. Reaction have been around for a while but now their tech looks good, BAE/RR/NASA will probably end up swallowing them up as they’ll need serious money to get the project to realisation.

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

@ turk – I have to gently correct your negative statements there. Reaction have had a test centre in Colorado (called ‘TF2’) – to test the intercooler systems – because it needed the open space. It successfully achieved the required intake cooling in April this year cooling air from a test speed of Mach 3.3. Its main test facility (called ‘TF1’) is at Westcott in Bucks, it is a very British based company and has all its research and HQ facilities here in the UK. Given the involvement of the UK Government as well I hardly think it will be… Read more »

turk
Guest
turk

and yes unless they have a good IT security policy china (and others) will have already tried to hack the tech.

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

Yet another great example of focused development of new technologies using British companies. Well done the MoD. First Tempest and now this. OK I know the Swedes are coming on board with Tempest and Leonardo have been involved from Day One but that project was triggered a year ago by just this sort of focused action and see how it has grown.

Now can we just get the same attention applied to Type 31s and FSS ships?

Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf

The Swedes are NOT joining Tempest.
It has been confirmed at Riat press conference
https://www.facebook.com/BAESystemsplc/videos/337639690518949/

Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf

The Swedes are not joining Tempest. This was confirmed at Riat press conference

Mat
Guest
Mat

Also Leonardo are involved because they are the main UK supplier of a lot of electronic equipment. Including the UK portion of the radar for Typhoon. They also make the radar for Gripen E. It seems to be a common miss-understanding that their involvement is related to Italy being involved. Leonardo’s UK electronics department has quite a complex history of company mergers and purchases, and most of it can trace its history back to way before it was part of Leonardo. So saying Leonardo being involved means that Italy is involved, is the same as saying the UK is involved… Read more »

Watcherzero
Guest
Watcherzero

The Swedes have been awarded some defence studies and a review will take place in 2020 into deepening Anglo-Swede co-operation. I think the Swedish politicians are just being at pains to stress that they aren’t abandoning Gripen.

Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf

Look at the Riat press conference video. At 9:09 and in Q&A around 46min they clearly say Sweden is not part of team Tempest. They vaguely talk about some analysis on strategic collaboration on future air systems, not the fighter which Sweden and Saab are not part of as clearly stated. It seems Sweden is interested in collaboration on tech so they can integrate it in the Gripen. That does not exclude other areas of cooperation such as weapons, drones, sensors etc… it is super vague and at this point just intentions. No mention either of funding. Hardly the partnership… Read more »

Stephen
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Stephen

Sweden interested in colab on tech? No thanks, they will be the ones getting something out of that deal.

Watcherzero
Guest
Watcherzero

Apparently they are mainly after assistance from BAE developing software for the Gripen E, according to Saab “The platform is 75% software so capabilities can be enhanced without upgrading hardware”. They are reviewing joining several other R&D projects over the next year including Tempest. but are stressing that the Gripen E will meet their short to medium term requirements (that they wont cease development on Gripen to work on sixth gen).

Gandalf
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Gandalf

Riat press conference
https://www.facebook.com/BAESystemsplc/videos/337639690518949/
It is like an hour long, so just go 9:09 and at Q&A around 47min. Clearly say not involved in Tempest “…Saab will not join Team Tempest…”

Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf
Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf

Swedish government press statement
https://www.government.se/press-releases/2019/07/sweden-and-united-kingdom-sign-agreement-on-development-of-future-combat-aircraft-capabilities
No where does it say they are joining team Tempest, just some tech/capabilities study, which could be a mutual engine, EW, sensor, weapons etc… but no agreement on building a plane together

Oli
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Oli

“…systems including Gripen, as well as the potential for a joint FCAS programme that will meet the requirements of the UK and Sweden, as well as the international market”

They’re not signed up to a new plane but they’re definitely intent on exploring the possibilities of one.

Gandalf
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Gandalf

Finally as i have stated in the past on many occasions. The UK is quite capable of doing Tempest on it’s own. The know how is there, just need real long term commitment from the government to fund it. In fact i think there are real advantages of not having too many cooks in the kitchen, instead of having to please differing interests you get what you need. But overhyped PR about nonesense mach5 fighter only create false expectations and weaken credibility.

Stephen
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Stephen

I agree Gandalf, let this be one the the (extremely few) times we go it alone.

Robert blay
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Robert blay

We wont go it alone, because the cost is unbelievable to go it alone, Typhoon has cost the UK somthing in the region of 37 billion , maybe alot more, and that’s shared with 3 other nations. Plus, we will only buy relatively small numbers. Look how expensive the F35 still is, and over 3000 will be built!

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Robert, for your information, (from a comment from someone else below) a parliamentary committee concluded Typhoon cost the U.K. 98% of going it alone. So no, the cost isn’t unbelievable if we go it alone. Also we would get exports for it.

Robert blay
Guest
Robert blay

I admire your optimism, but it even the Americans run out of money to pay for the F22 program, and only bought around 170 airframes. We wont design and pay for a 6th gen Tempest program on our own, not unless you are happy to see 50+ billion shaved off the NHS budget or education ect, which will definitely never happen.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

We spend £14 billion every single year on foreign aid, start there. The truth is the U.K., as one of the richest countries in the World with a G.D.P. of $2.6 trillion, could easily afford this on our own, with unbelievable amounts of money left over.

Robert blay
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Robert blay

Get real Stephen, what financial dream world are you living in. And the foreign aid budget is this countries soft power budget, it gives us a huge amount of influence around the world, most of the work goes unseen, but that budget does a huge amount for work for us and UK plc.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

The foreign aid budget is £billions of British people’s hard earned money being given away to foreign countries every single year. Money that could be better spent improving our own country.

Dan
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Dan

Better start petitioning then: the Tories passed a bill in 2015 that commits us to spending 0.7% of gross national income on aid. It would take another act of Parliament to overturn that.

Chris H
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Chris H

@ Robert Blay – i am not too sure offering the F-22 as some guide to what Tempest will cost is too accurate. You have to understand that the US Military and US Incorporated are a) rather adept at managing projects badly which extends the life of the project costing money and b) adding specifications even after production starts (F-22, F-35, USS Gerald R Ford and Littoral ships all illustrate). Yes the F-22 cost over $67 Bn in 2010 money and which proves my point a) above but the numbers were scaled back more because there was no need for… Read more »

Robert blay
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Robert blay

Hi Chris. I hope you are right, I would be amazed if we go it alone, and I still believe Tempest will be a multi national project, but maybe it wont be like the model used for Tornado and Typhoon, with separate production factories ect. I did read just yesterday that Tyhoon will be used extensively over the next 10 years + to prove many of the technologies used on a potential 6th gen fighter, so maybe you could be correct about more focused RnD, and will definitely enhance the capabilities of the Typhoon in coming years.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

I would also be amazed if we go it alone, there are people high up who force us to colab on every single thing, even when we don’t actually have to.
Also if we use separate production, factories, etc. it will end up costing nearly the same as if we just go it alone (98% of the cost in Typhoon’s case.

Robert blay
Guest
Robert blay

And where do you get this 98% figure from? Do have a link? I would very much like to see who stated this figure and when?

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

Robert – that works out at about £231 million a copy then – not exactly cheap as chips is it lol ?.

Robert blay
Guest
Robert blay

No, ? the research & development costs alone are eye watering.

Atomic
Guest
Atomic

Reaction engine’s origins are from the RR RB545 classified air breathing rocket for the HOTOL in the 80’s. but the precooler tech addresses a fundamental issue with turbojets, -extremely hot & pressurised air arriving at the compressor, causing surging. The tech has the Potential to improve all turbojet engines above Mach 1 & without having to use exotic materials. I think it’s less about pure straight line speed & more about efficiency, manoeuvrability & acceleration. Politicians like to push buzzwords like hypersonic & stealth but they fundamentally lack any knowledge of the tech, RR BAE & RE refer to it… Read more »

Daveyb
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Daveyb

The pre-cooler allows a combination engine i.e. turbojet/ramjet to function seamlessly in that the turbojet can be made to work more efficiently and at higher air speeds, before it crosses over to ramjet mode. The pre-cooler will work from zero to very high Mach. As it’s cooling the inlet air not slowing it down, which is the job of the shock cone. By cooling the air you make it denser and thus more oxygen rich = more potential power. The pre-cooling if fitted to a Typhoon has the potential to increase thrust by at least 25% if the main fuel… Read more »

Atomic
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Atomic

That’s a very elegant explanation. RR have stated they are working on a variable cycle engine (have both high & low bypass modes) & the only one I can think of is the American GE F120 -from the YF23. The cancelled 2nd engine for the F35 was the General Electric/Rolls Royce F136. Also developed from the F120. Do you think pre-cooler tech would work on this type & if RR are planning a British variant based on this very cool engine?

DaveyB
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DaveyB

Technically speaking the SR71’s J58 was a variable cycle engine. During design it suffered significant engine stall problems and overheating. The solution was to by-pass some the air entering the compressor and feed it to the afterburner. This ensured that the pressure ratio (between inlet and exhaust) was greater than 1 but also made sure that the afterburner ducting was cooled. Thereby allowing the aircraft to reach a published airspeed of Mach 3.5. The engine was seriously held back due to the very high inlet air temperature. The pre-cooler would work on any turbojet or turbofan engine be it high… Read more »

Chris H
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Chris H

@ Watcherzero – I think you are right as politicians’ horizons are typically a lot closer than the timescale this programme is looking at. Both UK with Typhoon and Sweden with Gripen E have developing and very capable aircraft up to 2035 / 2040. But then what? Both will need a replacement in very similar timeframes and I think this is why they will still become part of tempest in 2020 especially as more realistic numbers and studies are produced by the current team members

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

@ Gandalf – So not quite what we were led to believe over recent weeks then? Someone was pretty firm on the positive spin as to what to expect. So maybe half a foot ‘on board’ then? Hope our ship doesn’t sail with them perched between deck and quay … Having said that I was intrigued by this Press release from Leonardo (as also issued by DefSec Mordaunt) but listed under their Tempest Press Releases: https://www.uk.leonardocompany.com/en/innovation/tempest/uk-sweden-partner-future-combat-air So that’s OK then: We carry on with the originating partners as originally intended and I suspect the UK will be happy to sell… Read more »

Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf

But that does not mean it’s a bad thing 😉 I get worried when i see too much hype and too many partners, in the end you get mediocre results more often than not. More energy spent on fighting over slices of cake than real progress Now i am just worried about hypersonic buzzword being thrown around. Great for missiles, but a real nightmare for a combat plane on way too many levels. Building planes always involves compromises speed vs agility vs range vs stealth etc… being on your own at least lets you be master at what you can… Read more »

Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf

Furthermore, it will be interesting to watch how the French and the Germans progress. Germany is a pain like the US when it comes to export, as we have seen with Typhoon in Saudi. Germany’s new def minister AKK is not great news, she was the one that suggested a common aircraft carrier and for France give up its seat at the UN security council for europe. I expect some fireworks across the channel! Maybe in the end the UK and France will be partners, which does make some sense. We did make some good aircrafts in the past, Concorde,… Read more »

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

@ Gandalf – Totally agree about Germany as a partner nation. They habitually talk up order numbers, get the larger workshare and then scale back orders. Or even want to pull out at a critical time as we found it in the early days of Typhoon (and indeed Tornado). And you are right about promoting Typhoon for exports – all done by the the UK and Italy. Sadly I have to differ about the French. What we achieved together in the ’60s with Concorde (BAC / Sud Aviation) and the ’70s with Jaguar (BAC / Breguet) is a very different… Read more »

Watcherzero
Guest
Watcherzero

Finally getting into the military hypersonic aircraft propulsion game. Tempest has the potential to have some world beating propulsion tech (though of course leaves the other issues of hypersonic such as extreme heat and radio interference to solve) Just cross fingers the tech works outside the lab.

Gandalf
Guest
Gandalf

I understand the benefit of hypersonic for one time use missiles. But for multi use jets it is not practical. The friction at those speeds mean that you have next to no manoeuvrability, not to mention the type of super expensive materials needed to handle such heat. You can forget affordable maintenance costs and sorties per day for these birds. The sr71 operated at circa mach3 (top speed is classified, but operating speed is more relevant) and was only used for fly straight recon, not combat. Sure materials, etc have improved, but physics are the same, we see this on… Read more »

T.S
Guest

I believe they are close to finalising a new ceramic coating that will solve most of the heat issues.

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

@Gandalf Would it make sense to use the engines detuned on current RAF fighters, thereby increasing their life expectancy?

An additional increase in thrust would be limited to what the airframe could withstand in a turn and straight-line speed surly via a software update?

All positive news none the less and selling these engines for use on the Gripen E/F would greatly improve both sales and performance on these aircraft too, reducing the production costs in the process.

Watcherzero
Guest
Watcherzero

SR-71 was indeed the stretched two seater Recon variant of the A12, an interceptor version of the A12 the YF-12 was in development however, Mach 3.35 and carrying 3 Air-to-Air missiles (an early version of the Phoenix that armed the F-14) in an internal bay, three were built and 93 were ordered but the project was cancelled due to the Vietnam war diverting funding away from intercepting Russian nuclear bombers. There was also the M-21 variant of the A12 which carried a Mach 3.3 camera drone called the D-21 but they could never get the drone to work right.

Daveyb
Guest
Daveyb

Mate, the SR71 and to some degree the space shuttle were st the forefront of material science. The SR71 made great use of titanium and introduced carbon-carbon. The carbon material was brand new could resist the temperatures, but as the space shuttle found was very brittle. High temp resistant ceramic compounds are the new solution. They have added an extra 1000C to what was available from carbon-carbon. What’s more they are much harder, but also significantly less ductile. Two new compounds use Hafnium and Tantalum. These are setting new temperature resistant records at 4500C. The other benefit of these compounds… Read more »

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

We should definitely keep this British. Let this be one of the very, very, very few times we go it alone, and show the World what 21st century Britain is capable of.

Robert blay
Guest
Robert blay

And how do we afford this on our own? We couldn’t afford Tornado on our own, we couldn’t afford Typhoon on our own? Or F35. It’s a nice fantasy, but that’s all it will be. We simply don’t have the money to pay for a 6th gen fighter programme on our own, while also paying for everything else in defence. We have the ability, no doubt there, but we need other nations cash.

Atomic
Guest
Atomic

A parliamentary committee concluded eurofighter cost Britain 98% the cost of going alone. The problem with European joint projects is each country wants to invest in its own respective development industry, this leads to duplication & inferior companies reinventing the wheel.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

So it cost 98% of going it alone, yet Robert Blay insists it is “fantasy” and impossible and “we simply don’t have the money”? Lol, that’s a nice fantasy Robert, but that is all it is.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Look at it another way, how many Eurofighters did the UK originally commit to build vs how many were built in the end? How many tempests or equiv will we now buy, i assume even less, as each generation gets more expensive and the budget gets tighter.

The problem economy of scales, we no longer have it to keep the costs down enough to make a go it alone jet viable, at least not one that has the capability we would get if we joined the US or another larger customer.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Ever heard of exports? Also, as one of the richest countries in the World, the truth is, yes, we could absolutely go this alone, and still have absolutely huge amounts of money left over. Agree that if we join anyone it should be the U.S.A., not a minor little country like Sweden, etc. (lol!) who will offer us nothing we can’t do for ourselves. Also, it doesn’t matter what it is when someone say Britain should go something alone (cars, trains, ships, steel, aeroplanes, tanks, space rockets, etc., etc., etc.), literally every single thing, bar nothing, without fail, someone will… Read more »

Steve
Guest
Steve

Exports are a risk, a huge risk.

The UK would need to put up the money to invest in the project and then hope they get exports, at the same time competing against the bigger economy of scales/cheaper unit cost of the US version and/or the French/German version.

Additionally if we go chasing after exports, we add to the cost, as each tender comes with it.

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

Steve – the original requirement for what became the Typhoon was for 250 Aircraft.As the programme progressed the Contractual obligation was reduced to 232.The number ordered thus far for the RAF stands at 160.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

I am talking about S.A.B.R.E. (Skylon) which also has civillian applications. How do we afford this on our own? Easily if Typhoon cost 98% of going it alone. It is not that we couldn’t afford Tornado or Typhoon on our own, we easily could have done if we truly wanted to.

Robert blay
Guest
Robert blay

But we didnt, and we wont with a 6th gen Tempest fighter programme. The Americans could barely afford the F22 programme, and had to cut airframe numbers considerably. I’m not trying to piss on your bonfire, I’m being realistic,considering our current financial situation.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

The U.S.A. with a G.D.P. of $19 trillion could EASILY have afforded the F22 program if they had truly wanted to, if you honestly think it would have come anywhere even close to bankrupting them you you are not being realistic. Our current financial situation, as one of the richest countries in the World, with a G.D.P. of $2.6 trillion could easily afford this, with absolutely huge amounts of money left over. If we collab on Tempest then under no circumstances whatsoever are we collabing on Skylon. We are not collabing on every single thing, bar nothing. Even much poorer… Read more »

Peter Shaw
Guest
Peter Shaw

Good initiative and reaction engines are ahead of the game in many ways. Let’s hope this is a sign of good things to come. Invest in the UK companies and they will deliver. This is one of the good reasons to increase defence spending as this leads to innovations that also have civil applications too. Almost 100% of technologies originally either came from the defence or space programmes around the world.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Guest
Levi Goldsteinberg

Reaction Engines are a seriously exciting new feather in the cap of British industry

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

I’m sure someone will be along soon to say we will have to sell it to foreigners, or at the very least go 50/50 with a foreign country because, you know, it is totally impossible for one of the richest countries in the World with a G.D.P. of $2.6 trillion to go this alone. Totally impossible. And so is every single other thing impossible for Britain to do. Bar nothing.

Robert blay
Guest
Robert blay

I think you are getting the wrong end of the stick Stephen. Yes, we will go it alone on reaction engine technology and many other new tech towards a 6th gen fighter. We do build a huge amount on our own, 2 x 70k tonne aircraft carriers, T45, T26 , T31 (hopefully) Astute class and the new Vangard replacement. Lots to be proud of, but very few nations with the exception of the American’s build everything on there own. Sweden builds the Gripen, others build tanks ect, but a large scale fighter programme is very very costly, and within the… Read more »

Chris Pollard
Guest
Chris Pollard

there should be a contract put in place stating that when the finished product is complete Rolls-Royce cannot sell it to any other country for 5 years. Not even the blue prints should be made public. keep it away from everyone. it’s bad enough that we have to tell the world what we are doing in the first place. keep it British.

Matthew East
Guest
Matthew East

Little slow here guys, Australia been researching this stuff since the 80’s.. Actually you guys where involved in it through DERA. NASA spent $250m .. and we spent $1.5m and got the same results as them.. your welcome 😉 Nah but seriously would you guys be open to joint program? Australia would like to join, We even have the test range you will need.