Adaptive-cycle engines are about to become a reality as the General Electric Next-Gen XA100 fighter jet engine passes its last big test.
According to General Electric XA100, the fighter jet engine successfully completed its final and most rigorous tests in August at Tennessee’s Arnold Air Force Base.
“Designing a fighter jet engine is an incredibly humbling experience,” says David Tweedie, VP and general manager for advanced products at GE’s Edison Works. “There’s literally zero room for error,” which is why Tweedie is so excited about GE’s new XA100 passing its final and most rigorous test — conducted in August at Tennessee’s Arnold Air Force Base — and what that means for the future of America’s national security.
GE XA100 adaptive cycle engine is designed, built and testing through the U.S. Air Force’s Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), the XA100 represents a step-change in propulsion that maximizes the F-35A and F-35C’s capabilities for decades to come.
The XA100 is an “adaptive cycle” engine, designed for maximum efficiency across subsonic, transonic, and supersonic flight speeds. Being engineered to seamlessly, and automatically, go from high-thrust events — think takeoff and advanced aerial combat maneuvers — to high-efficiency mode makes the XA100 a true super jet. Additionally, the XA100 exhibits high fuel efficiency on long-haul flights, which, of course, is not something that fighter jets are traditionally known for. But Tweedie says that’s about to change.
“Many thought the jet engine was a mature technology, that it couldn’t be improved,” says Tweedie, “but the team here at Edison Works knew there was a next level.” Designed for future and retrofit use in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 — the stealth multi-role combat aircraft that serves as the cornerstone of the U.S. fighter fleet — the XA100 is the answer to a very important question that the U.S. military posed to GE in 2016: How can we ensure American air superiority for the next generation?
GE’s AETP offering, called the XA100, has delivered on the Air Force’s original ask: 25% better fuel efficiency, twice the thermal management capacity, and at least 10% more thrust. Hester, who now consults for GE, notes the XA100’s three test campaigns—including one currently taking place at the Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC)—have demonstrated that generational jump in capability.
The Air Force’s AETP (Adaptive Engine Transition Program) started in 2016 with this exact scenario in mind. General Electric (GE) and Pratt & Whitney are testing engines under this program with adaptive cycle engines that generate more power when you need it and then adapt for greater efficiency while cruising to extend the jet’s range.
The AETP engines, designed as drop-in replacement engines for the F-35A, also provide a significant jump in cooling capability. That cooling is critical to support the F-35’s impending Block IV needs and capacity for growth in upcoming upgrades.