Aerospace & Defence

Unlocking innovative hypersonic technologies

19th July 2022
Paige West

A new programme supported by leading aerospace companies aims enhance UK defence capabilities through the development of innovative hypersonic technologies.

The Hypersonic Air Vehicle Experimental (HVX) programme is currently supported by 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).

In particular, Reaction Engines’ precooler, SABRE’s combined-cycle engine technologies and Rolls-Royce’s gas turbine technology are key foundations for the programme.

Funded by NSSIF, a team has already been established to develop critical high-Mach/hypersonic technologies which include:

  • Novel air-breathing propulsion architectures
  • Innovative thermal management systems
  • Advanced vehicle concepts

A full-scale experimental engine test campaign has begun.

The programme is conducting design work on experimental hypersonic vehicle concepts. The immediate objective is to mature technologies which can reduce the cost of developing a reusable high-Mach/hypersonic air vehicle.

A single engine hypersonic concept vehicle called ‘Concept V’ has already been unveiled at the Farnborough International Air Show.

Air Vice-Marshal Linc Taylor, Chief of Staff Air Capability, Royal Air Force, 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, 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 Programmes, of Rolls-Royce, 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 a 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; maximising exploitation of the wider S&T Portfolio, such as the Hypersonics Weapons Research Programme.”

It is expected that other leading aerospace companies will join the programme, ensuring additional support to meet the programmes objectives.

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