European engine manufacturers must increase technology development efforts without delay if they want to supply a powerplant for a projected indigenous future fighter, in the view of MTU Aero Engines chief programme officer Michael Schreyögg.
Speaking at the ILA Berlin air show on 26 April, Schreyögg expressed surprise at the speed and progress of recent talks between government and industrial partners about the development of a European future combat aircraft.
Following a tentative agreement between France and Germany in 2017, Airbus Defence & Space and Dassault disclosed on 25 April their intent to jointly develop a replacement for their respective Eurofighter and Rafale programmes, with a future product to enter service between 2035 and 2040.
But despite the apparent progress of talks, Schreyögg believes there is no time to waste in developing and maturing required new engine technology for the aircraft. He says an engine programme must be launched around 2022 in order to make the powerplant available for a flight-test programme for the future jet by 2030. This means MTU and its potential partners must develop new technologies and demonstrators "now", before a new engine programme can be formally launched, he says.
Munich-based MTU began with initial studies about a new-generation fighter engine in 2016 and spends around €10 million ($12 million) per year on the activities today. Schreyögg foresees that figure should grow to €60-80 million before the "main development effort" begins.
He argues that “lessons must be learned” from the Europrop International TP400 – Europe's latest military engine programme, which powers the Airbus A400M tactical transport – and that a new development effort should be planned without "too tight" a schedule, under which "milestones will be missed".
MTU is a partner alongside ITP, Rolls-Royce and Safran Aircraft on the TP400 programme.
Central for a new engine programme will be the development of more heat-resistant materials, which will require less cooling air from the gas path and offer increased efficiency, and variable-cycle engine technology, Schreyögg says. He notes that variable geometries in the compressor and turbine will be required to provide a future aircraft with maximum thrust in combat situations, along with versatility and efficiency in less demanding conditions.
Schreyögg argues that the development of an indigenous future fighter is essential for Europe, if the region is to assert its political sovereignty and independence on the international stage.