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Air Force plans to develop revolutionary engine

  • Published
  • By Larine Barr
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
Air Force Research Laboratory engineers have outlined a five-year timeline for a new, adaptive engine that will enable pilots to switch from high speed combat maneuvers to long-range persistence mode as effortlessly as a bird in flight.

AFRL's Propulsion Directorate recently issued a Broad Agency Announcement calling for industry to develop a demonstration program for the revolutionary engine, called ADaptive Versatile ENgine Technology, or ADVENT.

Also known as Project ADVENT, the program's goals are to develop inlet, engine, and exhaust technologies that optimize propulsion system performance over a broad range of altitude and speed.

According to Matthew Meininger, ADVENT program manager, the demonstration program will select two competitive contractor teams in August 2007 during a concept exploration phase. The remainder of Phase I will include critical component testing and engine preliminary design.

A single contractor will then be selected in late 2009 to carry out the Phase 2 effort. This phase covers work from engine detailed design through Technology Readiness Level 6, which signifies it is ready for a full-up, operational test in a relevant engine environment. Mr. Meininger said engine demonstrator testing would occur in 2012.

Jeff Stricker, chief engineer of the Propulsion Directorate's Turbine Engine Division, said the transformational engine is needed to combine speed, maneuverability, range and persistence. Essentially, it will transcend today's fixed engines, which are constrained to provide either fuel efficiency or high performance.

"The ADVENT program represents the next big step in turbine engine technology development," said Mr. Stricker. "It holds the potential to provide dramatic new aircraft capabilities that place high value on persistence, range, and speed combined with sensors, weapons and communications that demand higher power extraction from the engine."

Mr. Stricker explained that modern turbine engines are designed to operate optimally at a single flight condition, and are compromised at other mission points. Currently pilots must use the throttle to match thrust when conditions are not optimal. This results in diminished fuel efficiency and performance.

"ADVENT is a multi-design point engine that incorporates the best characteristics of high performance and fuel efficient jet engines into a single adaptable engine," said Mr. Stricker.

The new engine design will use adaptive fans and cores to generate high thrust when needed, and optimize fuel efficiency when cruising or loitering.

"ADVENT offers adaptive engine airflow and cycle for optimized performance at all flight conditions," Mr. Meininger said. "Future systems will be able to combine loiter with supersonic dash, provide short takeoff and landing combined with long range for mobility aircraft, improve combat maneuverability, and enhance thermal management."

Project ADVENT is a flagship effort under the Versatile, Affordable Advanced Turbine Engines Program, or VAATE. Managed by the Propulsion Directorate, VAATE is a national program aimed at advancing the state of the art in turbine engine technology. It focuses on a broad suite of advanced, innovative game-changing capabilities, which dramatically improve fuel efficiency and aircraft performance across the entire mission profile.