GE begins testing of its XA100 adaptive cycle engine for the F-35

On March 25, the US Air Force and GE began Phase 2 testing of GE’s second XA100 adaptive cycle engine at the US Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC). This milestone marks the first test of an AETP (Adaptive Engine Transition Program) engine at AEDC.

“AEDC’s advanced testing facilities are a unique national asset. We are excited to begin testing here and continue to evolve this propulsion system which we believe represents the future of the F-35,” said David Tweedie, GE Edison Works general manager for Advanced Combat Engines. “Our testing to date has validated the transformability of the XA100, and we look forward to seeing performance data from Phase 2 testing.”

GE completed Phase 1 testing of this XA100 test engine in November 2021 in Evendale, Ohio (almost a year of testing). As GE’s press release reports, Phase 2 testing will be conducted entirely at AEDC, representing the culmination of AETP and signaling the drive to move this technology into full-scale development.

GE’s XA100 became the world’s first three-flow, flight-weight adaptive cycle engine in December 2020 before launching testing on its second engine in August 2021.

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GE’s engine is specifically designed to fit both the F-35A and F-35C without any structural changes to either airframe, resulting in improved range, acceleration and aircraft cooling power to accommodate next-gen mission systems (like laser weapons), while providing better durability. and greater availability.

“The XA100 simultaneously delivers transformational improvements in fuel efficiency, thrust, power and thermal management that simply cannot be matched by legacy propulsion systems,” Tweedie added. “These enhancements will help ensure that the F-35 remains a preeminent fighter platform not just in the near term, but for decades to come, and will help reduce service operational and sustainment costs.”

Improvements to all indicators

The XA100 combines three key innovations to deliver a generational shift in combat propulsion performance:

  • An adaptive engine cycle that provides both a high thrust mode for maximum power and a high output mode for optimal fuel economy and idle time
  • A third-flow architecture that provides a step change in thermal management capability, enabling future mission systems to be more combat-effective
  • Extensive use of advanced component technologies including ceramic matrix composites (CMC), polymer matrix composites (PMC) and additive manufacturing
XA100 test engine

These breakthrough innovations increase thrust by more than 10%, improve fuel efficiency by 25%, and provide significantly greater aircraft heat dissipation capability, all within the same physical envelope as current propulsion systems.

The XA100’s improved fuel efficiency offers a significant reduction in carbon emissions and will run on any US Air Force approved sustainable aviation fuel.

A matter of cost

Adaptive cycle engines will eventually become a reality, because in addition to equipping future blocks of F-35 aircraft, they are going to be the engine of the new sixth generation fighters of the USAF and the USN.

But despite promises of improved performance and lower operating costs from adaptive cycle engines currently under development, the option of re-engining the current F-35 fleet with them may be too costly.

Pratt & Whitney offers a more conservative option than re-engining, with an upgrade package applicable to the current F135.

If General Electric specifies that its XA100 can be used on the F-35A and C, it does not mention the B model, which should continue to be based on the current Pratt & Whitney F135, which would call into question future availability. Bravos. , vertical landing version of the F-35.

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