The U.S. military has begun to define requirements for its future fighters. To conduct operations in advanced threat environments, next-gen fighters will need greater range provided by more powerful and fuel-efficient engines; better avionics; and advanced mission systems.
Making all that happen will require engineers to solve a number of challenges – including how to handle all the heat those high-tech new systems will produce. And the power and thermal management experts at Raytheon Technologies are working on it. With a long history of collaboration on military engines, the company’s Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney businesses are working together with the Raytheon Technologies Research Center to break new ground on power and thermal management solutions that will enable the aircraft of tomorrow, while also supporting upgrades to today’s fleet.
“It’s the difference between success or failure. If you’re not succeeding in getting the heat out of the system, you have a problem,” said Andreas Roelofs, Raytheon Technologies’ vice president of research and development and the director of the Raytheon Technologies Research Center, where experts are contributing to the effort through new designs for heat exchangers, testing and evaluation, composite materials and novel methods of manufacturing. “Without effective heat transfer, you can’t drive top performance.”
The solutions the company is developing will have applications for a range of platforms, including the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy’s future fighter programs, the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift program, battlefield air mobility, and the F-35 and F-22 modernization programs.
“We want to find the most efficient way to integrate between propulsion, electric power generation and thermal management,” said Bill Dolan, vice president of engineering and technology at Collins Aerospace’s Power & Controls unit. “Current systems cannot support the increased heat loads that future enhancements will require without detracting from desired aircraft performance, so we are actively exploring new architectures, new packaging and new methods of integration.”
The Raytheon Technologies team is uniquely positioned to achieve these improvements, with a Tier 1 systems supplier (Collins Aerospace) and an engine manufacturer (Pratt & Whitney) under one roof. Working together, the team can realize gains that would ordinarily be left in the margins, while providing seamless integration and streamlined service to its customers. Rather than working in silos, the Raytheon Technologies structure, digital capabilities and collective expertise allow it to partner with airframers and military customers in a unique way to produce the best solutions for the warfighter.
“Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney have worked together for decades on military engines, including the F135 propulsion system for the F-35, but this is a new level of collaboration,” said Dolan. “In the past, the environmental control systems and engines for military aircraft have been designed and procured separately, but future aircraft require a far more integrated approach in order to support all the desired upgrades. We’re working to co-optimize the thermal and engine cycles together. That’s something that’s never been done before.”