Two study contracts have been placed with industry after last week’s Anglo-French agreement on further exploration of a joint UCAV development. BAE Systems, together with Dassault Aviation, and Rolls-Royce with Snecma will work on the demonstration program preparation phase (DPPP) of the proposed future combat air system (FCAS). The value and duration of the work were not stated.
Chris Boardman, managing director of military air and information at BAE Systems, said, “BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation have been working together closely to ensure we maintain our status as leading providers of aerospace capability. The signing of this contract will ensure that both countries get the best return on their investment and positions the two companies well to meet any future Anglo-French requirements.”
Nick Durham, president of defense customer business at Rolls-Royce, said, “This collaboration agreement recognizes the need for airframe and power and propulsion system suppliers to work together to deliver an optimized, affordable solution for the next generation of combat aircraft for the UK and France.” The engine study contract was let via Rolls-Royce Snecma, a 50-50 joint venture established in 2001. Apart from some previous study work, the joint venture has not been active until now.
In previous briefings, Rolls-Royce has highlighted the need for integrated power systems and hotter engine cores when designing powerplants for UCAVs. This is in addition to the stealth criteria that affect the intake and exhaust configuration. The British company has been working on a three-year study named Engine Technologies for Aircraft Persistence and Survivability. Funded jointly with the UK Ministry of Defence, the study is slated to end this summer.
Rolls-Royce has built practical experience of supplying power to UCAVs through its membership in the consortium building the UK’s Taranis UCAV demonstrator. It is powered by the company’s Adour Mk951 turbofan, which has also been supplied to the pan-European Neuron UCAV demonstrator program through the Rolls-Royce-Turbomeca joint venture. But the Adour is an off-the-shelf solution to save cost, a Rolls-Royce source noted. “For a UCAV, you really need to sit down from the very start with the airframer and a clean sheet of paper,” he added.