UK aircraft developer Aeralis has redesigned its modular light jet concept, with the type gaining increased speed performance to match the needs of potential customers.

“The market started to give us some very precise needs and expectations about what variants we actually need to do now,” Aeralis chief executive Tristan Crawford said while unveiling the update at the DSEI show in London on 12 September.


Source: Aeralis

“One of the key pieces of feedback was the need to operate in a transonic speed regime, to make sure that the aggressor [variant] could really stress-test some of the high-end combat platforms.”

However, Crawford notes that potential customers also have stressed the need for Aeralis to “protect the price-point of the aircraft”, which it describes as being “very affordable”.

To be built around an evolved version of its common core fuselage design, a proposed family of aircraft will be suitable for duties including basic and advanced jet training, aggressor/Red Air tasks and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR). Other roles could include serving as a companion trainer for fifth-generation fighters, performing electronic warfare duties, or acting as a light tanker.

“We now have a new and improved shape that allows the aircraft to operate in the close to supersonic regime in level flight,” Crawford says. “We were also able to unlock some benefits in terms of increased capacity for fuel, and increased volume for kit inside the aircraft.” This has been achieved in part by replacing a bespoke undercarriage design with an off-the-shelf product from Heroux-Devtek.

“We’ve changed the shape to go faster, and we’ve actually improved the capability,” Crawford says.

The company approved the modified design at the end of 2022, and Crawford says that since that point, “we have been engineering it”. A recent design review board activity was chaired by former Royal Air Force senior engineer Sir Julian Young, providing further recommendations.

The proposed aggressor training variant will feature what Aeralis claims is “a first-of-its-kind wing architecture consisting of an inner wing and an outer wing to ensure manoeuvrability at both low and high speeds”. It describes this as a highly cranked-wing configuration.

The ISTAR variant, which will gain a fuselage extension to maintain stability due to its extended wing, could be unmanned.

“I look forward to quickly progressing the aircraft to its next stage,” Crawford says. The company is now preparing to develop a pre-production aircraft, with first flight targeted within three years.

A single-engined advanced jet trainer will be the first design to be produced. “We are still looking for entry into the market before the end of the decade,” he says.

The type will be powered by a Honeywell F124 engine, but Crawford notes: “The premise is still to be compatible with a range of engines.”

Meanwhile, Aeralis on 6 September named former BAE Systems, Airbus and AirTanker executive Robin Southwell as the new chair of its main board.

“His wealth of experience will provide valuable governance and oversight to Aeralis’ senior leadership as the business continues into its next chapter of rapid growth,” the company says.

Crawford says Aeralis will announce an agreement with a “major partner” at DSEI on 13 September. “That will give you an indication of where we see the interest developing,” he says.