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The British talked about military aviation of the future
Material posted: Publication date: 14-07-2014

British company BAE Systems talked about some of the technologies that can be used in military aviation 2040-ies. We are talking about the possibility of three-dimensional printing unmanned aircraft on Board the aircraft, the healing of the aerodynamic surfaces and high power lasers. The development of these technical solutions is already underway, however, at what stage are the projects, is still unknown. If these technologies really are established they will significantly advance several existing projects advanced combat aircraft, some of which are implemented in the interests of the Pentagon.

"The mothership"

One of the promising technologies alleged British engineers have dubbed The Transformer. It has no relation to the fictional Americans of alien intelligent machines. The essence of the promising technologies is the ability to connect several independent aircraft into a single unit. Each of these vehicles (manned or unmanned, BAE Systems did not specify) will be designed to perform specific tasks: intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, strike or delivery of provisions. While these drones are United, they can overcome long distances, saving fuel.

Assessment BAE Systems, the Association of aircraft in one will significantly reduce the drag (compared to a few scattered planes), and hence to reduce the fuel consumption to overcome this resistance. According to common idea, upon reaching a predetermined point, the aircraft would be able to disconnect to accomplish each task. Then the drones or aircraft will be able to unite again. BAE Systems introduced a short demo video of The Transformer, which showed a purely humanitarian mission — the delivery of provisions. Such technology, however, certain overlaps with one of the projects of the Pentagon.

It is about the family of aircraft shock systems, which in 2011 planned to begin in the U.S. air force. In September 2010, General Norton Schwartz, then commander of the U.S. air force, saidthat the new family will include long-range bomber, which in itself is not a universal machine, capable of producing radio-electronic combat, precision bombing and air defense breakthrough of the enemy. A year earlier, the U.S. Department of defense announced that the military should abandon the traditional understanding of long-range aviation.

In late 2010, the U.S. military explained that some components of the new "family" will not go into the enemy zone, while others will operate in enemy territory; some of them can be reused, while others will become "expendable". Promising aviation complex systems, it was assumed, would act as one and strike at any point of the world in a relatively short time. In this case, probably, most aircraft (if not all) in the "family" would have to be unmanned. However, due to financial constraints in 2011, the Pentagon suspended the project for the creation of conventional long-range bomber aircraft.

Print on the fly

If to speak about the project of the family impact of aircraft systems, the Pentagon may be of interest and another technology, presented by BAE Systems. This print technology of drones right on Board other aircraft. In this case it is assumed to productive use 3D printers and automated Assembly. In the future the human operator in the control center somewhere on earth, will be to select the type of drone depending on the specific tasks. After the transfer of the command of the "flying production" on Board the aircraft in the air in layers and will be quickly printed drone that is designed to execute strictly defined tasks.

BAE Systems engineers are confident that print in the air will be a drone-type aircraft for reconnaissance and surveillance and the drone-copters, are able to evacuate wounded soldiers or distress. After the task printed drones can either self-destructs or to land in a safe place — to be decided by the operator. Presumably, this technology will allow to create a universal flying machine with the function of production, which can be used in missions with uncertain tasks. What kind of technology three-dimensional printing can be used, BAE Systems said.

Today existing technologies of 3D printing are considered to be sufficiently reliable to be used for military purposes. In particular, in January 2014 made the first flight of the fighter Tornado GR.4 air force of great Britain, on which were set several "printed" metal parts. Tests were also conducted BAE Systems, were found to be successful. In future, part of spare parts for British fighter jets are planned to be produced by layer-by-layer printing. According to the Ministry of defence of the United Kingdom, application fighter Tornado "printed" parts will save up to 1.2 million pounds sterling in four years.

At the end of 2013 American company Solid Concepts "printed" metal working model of the army gun M1911 caliber .45 ACP. Weapons testing were successful. Details for Tornado fighter and "printed" gun combines technology — the direct metal laser sintering, in which the print is carried out by laser layer-by-layer by melting metal powder. Manufactured in this way the details do not require additional machining. In may of 2013 with a 3D printer was printed and a plastic single-shot pistol, The Liberator, the trials of which were successful.

Directed energy

One of the aviation technology of the future, represented BAE Systems in different countries the military spoke for a long time. Refers to military lasers that could be used on various aircraft. The assessment of the British company, the use of powerful lasers on airplanes or drones will allow fast, accurate and relatively cheap to impress different classes of air targets including missiles. This technology, expected to appear due to the successful development of ground-based laser weapons which are already used by the us military for the destruction of improvised explosive devices.

At the end of November 2013, the command of the U.S. air force released a request for information about the possibility to create laser weapons for future fighter aircraft. Aircraft with such weapons military will receive after 2030. It was also announced that the first test of the new combat laser, it is desirable to hold in 2022. The U.S. air force is interested in three types of lasers: low-power setting to illuminate the target and weapon guidance systems, the average capacity for self-protection of aircraft against enemy missiles and high-power installations for the destruction of other aircraft and ground targets.

Promising lasers are supposed to be used at altitudes from sea level up to 19.8 thousand meters at speeds from 0.6 to 2.5 Mach number (about 690-2900 kilometers per hour). According to the requirements of the military, armed with lasers, the planes should be free to operate in closed-fly zones or areas where prohibited or restricted maneuvers (A2/AD anti-access / area denied operational environment). Creating a list of requirements for new aircraft is conducted since 2011.


Finally, the British engineers announced the possibility of use in the aircraft of the future technology "self-healing". Such aircraft will be able to "heal" damage during the flight. The essence of technology lies in the fact that the fuselage and wings of airplanes are made of composite materials, in which it is envisaged to use carbon nanotubes. In these nanotubes will be lightweight adhesive fluid. When receiving damage to the nanotubes is dissolved and the liquid, rapidly freezing, begins to flow from them.

At BAE Systems believe that the use of the technology "self-healing" allows several times to increase the survivability of military aircraft, so that it will be able to act even in the most dangerous areas. However, it is clear that "self-healing" will be useful only if the damage is non-motorized aerodynamic surfaces of the aircraft. As it will help in case of partial or total damage, say, the Aileron or slat, BAE Systems said. Probably, in this case, another technology, developed by the Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the framework of the project of a fighter technology demonstrator ATD-X Shinshin.

It is about self-healing flight control (SRFCC). The essence of this technology is that the onboard computer of the aircraft will be able to automatically detect damage of various aerodynamic elements of the design and manage the remaining intact elements so to fully restore manageability. Presumably, SRFCC will appear on the ATD-X in the 2016-2017 year, but the completion of its development may be postponed for several years. More likely it will be implemented on next generation fighter is the Mitsubishi F-3, which first planned to raise in the air in the 2024-2025 year.

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