Speaking at the 2019 Air and Space Power Conference, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the head of the air force, said: “As part of the technologies being developed in parallel with Project Tempest, I am delighted to reveal that in concert with Rolls-Royce, Reaction Engines and BAE Systems, we are developing hypersonic propulsion systems, which will be designed and tested over the next 2 years, paving the way for the UK to become a centre of excellence in this technology and contribute to meeting future UK Defence needs.”
Alex Zino, director business development and future programmes at Rolls-Royce said: “Rolls-Royce will work closely with the UK MoD and our partners BAE Systems and Reaction Engines to conduct and coordinate research into high Mach advanced propulsion systems.
“Going forward, this collaboration will allow us to focus on enabling innovative technologies for increased aircraft performance and capability.”
A joint industry statement by Rolls-Royce, Reaction Engines and BAE Systems also welcomed the initiative: “By bringing together acknowledged aerospace innovation capability from British companies, Rolls-Royce, Reaction Engines and BAE Systems, critical high Mach propulsion technology elements will be developed over the next 2 years, paving the way for a UK centre of excellence in this technology and contributing to meeting UK MoD future defence needs.
“This work highlights the importance of collaboration with our partners and will allow us to focus on developing innovative technologies for increased aircraft performance and capability.”
Hypersonic air systems are growing world-wide interest for a variety of defence and security applications. The extra speed developed enables new capabilities, including: decreased time to target; improved penetration in contested environments; and the ability to access previously unreachable areas.
For a range of defence uses, speeds over Mach 4 are desirable and the ability to bridge the gap between required aircraft speed and propulsion system capability is a key enabler. This programme will address this capability gap by developing a variety of technological options and solutions.