Phase one of US Air Force programme will revolve around development of "versatile" cores

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has issued the first contracts for phase one of the Versatile Affordable Advanced Turbine Engine (VAATE) programme, designed to make advanced military engines 10 times more affordable than the Pratt & Whitney F119 by 2017.

The contracts are worth over $700 million and encompass advanced components, materials, thermo-dynamics and innovative structures as well as assessment and verification in demonstrator engines.

Phase one runs until 2011 and is aimed at achieving a six-fold improvement in affordability. The phase will be based around the development of two "versatile" cores.

The cores will provide the basis for several "robust, intelligent" engines, says the AFRL. Spin-off engines from the small core will include turboshafts and turbofans for military transports, unmanned air vehicles and missiles. The larger core is expected to feed into development of larger military transport turbofans, large ground power units and high Mach number engines. A combination of both cores will feed future combat turbofan projects.

Unlike the recently completed Integrated High-Performance Turbine Engine Technology programme, which was aimed at a doubling of capability compared with the F119, the VAATE effort is emphasising affordability as the key enabler towards a range of engines for the USAF, covering a much wider range of projects. These range from UAV powerplants to a Mach 2 supersonic vertical take-off and landing fighter, an M2-4-plus long-range strike aircraft, an M3-4 versatile combat/reconnaissance aircraft, and an M5-plus hypersonic strike aircraft.

Phase two, scheduled to run from around 2009 to 2017, will cover engine architectures, compact and "cloakable" infrared and low radar cross-section designs, as well as maintenance-free core concepts and damage-adaptable engine features.

The largest phase one contracts, valued at around $200 million each, have as expected been issued to General Electric and P&W.

Source: Flight International