Avio Aero CEO: Sixth-Gen Fighter Engine Vital For European Industry
ROME—The development of a new engine for Europe’s sixth-generation combat aircraft is crucial for Europe’s aerospace propulsion industry, the CEO of Italy’s Avio Aero says.
Because Europe did not produce a fifth-generation fighter or the engine for one, building an engine for a sixth-generation platform is “of the essence,” Riccardo Procacci told the Italian Air Force’s Centenary Aerospace Power Conference here May 12. Without such programs, he warns, Europe’s engine industry could lose the skills to produce such propulsion systems.
Avio Aero is the Italian propulsion partner on the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP), along with the UK’s Rolls-Royce and Japan’s IHI Corporation.
A sixth-generation engine program has the potential to “propel” the industry forward, he said, noting that without the company’s work on the Eurojet EJ200 engine, which powers the Eurofighter Typhoon, “Avio Aero would not be here today in the form and shape that it is.”
Procacci said the company has been able to successfully apply the technologies developed for the EJ200 into commercial engines. Building modules and systems for the EJ200 gave the company experience that has since allowed it to develop the Catalyst engine that will power the Eurodrone uncrewed aircraft system (UAS), he added. He described the military technology programs such as the EJ200 and sixth-generation fighter engine as providing a “fly wheel effect” that allows technology to move “seamlessly” from military to commercial use and vice versa.
He admitted, however, that the development of a new engine is so complex that it will not be possible to do so in isolation.
“Collaboration is key and it’s an enabling function to be for us to be successful,” Procacci said.
As well as supporting the engine development for GCAP, Avio Aero has secured a leading role in a European Defense Fund-financed study into next-generation combat aircraft propulsion and energy management systems. The Neumann (Novel Energy and propUlsion systeMs for Air domiNaNce) project is led by Avio Aero and includes 37 companies and research organizations. It aims to address challenges for the future combat aircraft mission profiles including increased stealth capabilities, range and electronic warfare, while also lowering life cycle costs.