Motorsport inspired technology to aid future combat aircraft development

Posted on 16 Jul 2020 by Jonny Williamson

BAE Systems and Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) have joined forces to explore how battery management and cooling technologies from the motorsport industry could be exploited to deliver efficiency and performance gains in the design of future combat aircraft.

An Oxfordshire-based specialist team from WAE is working closely with BAE Systems engineers in Lancashire to inform and guide thinking about how future aircraft could fly faster and more efficiently than anything before.

The project is part of a wider research effort to develop technologies that could be used to develop the most advanced combat air system for the UK.

The Tempest concept model on the airfield at BAE Systems in Warton, Lancashire, UK - image courtesy of BAE Systems

The Tempest concept model on the airfield at Barton, Lancashire – image courtesy of BAE Systems

Next generation combat air technologies will need high-power at low weight in order to provide long range endurance and mission success.

Future systems will also need to generate enough energy to power a small town, which can be managed safely and efficiently throughout the aircraft and its subsystems, with pilots depending on high-performance ‘power when you need it’ combat air capability.

WAE is a world leader in the design and delivery of advanced battery technologies that provide durable, fast charging power capability and was recently appointed as the Gen3 exclusive battery system supplier of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Combined with technical expertise from Rolls-Royce in the development of power and thermal management systems and BAE Systems’ experience in integrating complex systems, this collaboration is an example of how the UK combat air sector is leveraging the best of wider industry, sustaining critical skills across the country.

Julia Sutcliffe, Chief Technology Officer for BAE Systems’ Air sector, said: “Working in partnership with companies like WAE is vital to drive rapid innovation at the pace the Tempest programme demands.

“Changing how we engage with wider industry and leveraging the best technologies and processes from across the global supply chain is essential in order to deliver value to the UK, our international partners and our allies.”

Williams Advanced Engineeering stand at the LCV show, Millbrook,UK. 4/9/19. Photo Tom Pilston

Williams Advanced Engineeering stand at the LCV show 2019 – image courtesy of Tom Pilston

The UK’s ability to generate and employ combat air power is critical to deliver national security and to support the government’s vision for a strong, prosperous, influential and global Britain.

This study forms part of a wider UK research effort to develop a set of capabilities designed to support a fully-connected future combat air system, building on the country’s strong national heritage of advanced technology programmes and development of world-class military capabilities.

This latest project builds on an agreement signed in 2018 between the two companies to share technology, expertise and skills across a range of areas including augmented reality, cockpit designs and advanced materials to create game-changing innovations for the design, performance and production of both fast jets and fast cars.

A secondment programme is also in place creating opportunities for graduates and apprentices to share best practice across the two organisations.