Aeralis claims its digital test and evaluation environment helps reduce risk, increase programme benefits and allow for faster iteration and certification of modular aircraft design.

Aeralis chief executive officer Tristan Crawford says: “Aeralis is starting from the very beginning with a fully digital process to design and develop the aircraft, not only for manufacturing it but also for how it’s going to be supported and evolved through life and making sure that we put in place a digital system that is able to grow and expand with the programme.”

Crawford adds that this will enable the company to cover the whole lifecycle of the aircraft.

The Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) awarded Aeralis a three-year, £200,000 contract in early 2021 to research and develop its modular jet design. Future funding is set to be confirmed at a later date.

Crawford says: “There is a funding programme that’s currently being put in place for the full development of the aircraft.”

Aeralis’s first aircraft is set to be delivered in the mid-2020s, although the company is yet to confirm a date.  The company says it has designed the aircraft as a part of a training system.

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Crawford says: “The digital enterprise includes a full training and simulation solution that is developed together with the aeroplane so that the avionics and the aeroplane are reflected completely by the simulator.”

The RAF’s current jet training aircraft fleet is made up of Hawk T1 and T2 aircraft. They are used by many countries around the world and are one of the most prolifically sold military aircraft produced by the UK. However, the Defence Command Paper published by the UK Ministry of Defence in March confirmed the retirement of the T1 in the coming years.

Crawford says Hawks’ weakness in the single-point design.

“They were designed for a part of the training process, which means that the different aircraft in the market for training pilots all have their own specific function, but they have very little if any commonality between them,” he says.

In contrast, the Aeralis aircraft system is a common one. Regardless of which version of the five the trainee practices on, they see the same cockpits and simulator system.

Crawford adds: “With the single area display that we have in the cockpit, we’re able to emulate a wide range of frontline combat aircraft in a much more flexible way than competing types can. So, it means that the breadth of aircraft that we can train for is much broader.

“It means that there are significant benefits for students and instructors in having one system to learn from, from day one through to when they are on the front line.”

Aeralis is not part of the Tempest Future Combat Air System programme but has the potential to support it at a later point.

“The contract with the RCO is to explore how modular aircraft design process could be used as a part of the Future Tempest programme,” says Crawford.

“It’s very much about pathfinding and exploring processes, particularly around two areas. One is the open system architecture for avionics and also for the digital enterprise, which covers digital design, manufacture and support. Second, exploring how the Aeralis programme could help the RAF understand the options it has when it comes to design Tempest.”

Aeralis will demonstrate the flexibility of its concept and how it can support a broad range of applications in the market with an aircraft model and visual display at DSEI 2021.