General Electric Aerospace (GEA) completed the next series of testing of its XA100 adaptive cycle engine – the data from this test will inform engineers in developing the next-generation fighter aircraft.

In November 2023, GEA reported that its XA100 engine finished additional testing in partnership with the US Air Force (USAF) after completing all adaptive engine transition programme testing the previous year. This initiative will develop propulsion capabilities throughout the rest of the decade.

The insights gained from this testing could help the Next-Generation Adaptive Propulsion (NGAP) programme – the engine that will go on to power the USAF’s sixth-generation fighter jet, a central crewed platform within the service’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programme.

In February 2024 Pratt & Whitney, an RTX company, successfully conducted a crucial evaluation of its NGAP solution in collaboration with the USAF ahead of a detailed design review.

The future fighter will operate alongside autonomous Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) as part of a hybrid formation. The US Government recently down selected two vendors to deliver the CCAs: Anduril and General Atomics.

XA100 informs the future fighter engine

XA100 is an adaptive cycle engine, which means the aircraft engine is deigned to operate efficiently under different flight conditions. It provides a high-thrust mode for maximum power and can automatically alternate to a high-efficiency mode to extend mission range.

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Put simply, the engine offers 30% more range, 2% more thermal management and 20% more acceleration, GEA says.

“Every additional terabyte of data we gather off this real-world engine puts GEA and our military in a better position to deliver cutting-edge aviation capabilities to the warfighter,” said Amy Gowder, president and CEO, GEA Defense and Systems.

As part of NGAP, GEA has a second adaptive engine in development, the XA102, which completed a major design review in December 2023.

XA102 will continue toward a prototype engine test. The combination of digital design and learnings from GEA’s first adaptive cycle engine will allow XA102 to deliver the required propulsion performance key to enabling future air dominance capabilities.