A consortium consisting of Reaction Engines
, 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), has announced details of a joint programme to deliver significant enhancements to the UK’s defence capabilities through the development of innovative hypersonic technologies.
Building on the pioneering high-speed propulsion technologies and extensive R&D 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 is now underway.
HVX’s immediate objective is to rapidly mature technologies which can deliver a step-change reduction in the cost of developing a reusable high-Mach/hypersonic air vehicle. Reaction Engines’ novel precooler and SABRE combined-cycle engine technologies are key foundations for the programme. In combination with Rolls-Royce’s world-beating gas turbine technology, this brings a formidable capability to take on the challenging problems inherent with hypersonic flight.
Additionally, the programme is undertaking design work on experimental hypersonic vehicle concepts. At the Farnborough International Air Show
last week, a single-engine hypersonic concept vehicle – “Concept V” was unveiled. This example vehicle is one of a number of concept designs in active development by the project.
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.
Air Vice-Marshal Linc Taylor, the RAF’s chief of staff (air capability), said: “This activity presents a unique opportunity to experiment with pioneering UK technology to inform the art of the possible and challenge traditional views on the cost and time associated with development and fielding of high-Mach platforms. This partnership benefits from a series of aligned initiatives, integrating world class skills and technologies on a series of near-term experimentations to inform our future capability planning.”
Mark Thomas, Reaction Engines chief executive, 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, Rolls-Royce director of future programmes, said: “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.”
Steve Simm, Air Systems programme manager of Dstl, said: “Dstl is pleased to be involved in this exciting project, through three main aspects: use of MoD research funding to understand potential air system concepts and their feasibility; exploring potential operational utility of these concepts; and maximising exploitation of the wider S&T Portfolio, such as the Hypersonics Weapons Research Programme.”