Britain’s Air Force is to invest £200,000 in a company developing a Transformer-style aircraft that can switch from a trainer to a fighter jet.
Aeralis’ two-seater keeps the same fuselage but can swap in and out different engines and wing configurations to allow it to radically change purpose.
The Suffolk-based business hopes it will also be able to operate surveillance missions and even become a “fast-attack” drone.
The investment comes from the Royal Air Force’s “Rapid Capabilities Office” that aims to develop innovative ideas.
Aeralis chief executive Tristan Crawford told The Times, “We can put different wings on and different engines on so that it becomes a basic trainer for example, so it flies more slowly and it’s more easy to fly — like the flying equivalent of a family car.
“Then you can put more swept wings on it and a more powerful engine so you can fly faster but it’s more demanding to fly … so then you’re into your sort of Porsche.”
If completed, it would mark the first fully developed aircraft created entirely in the UK since the Hawk in 1974.
Air Marshal Richard Knighton, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, said, “I’m delighted to hear of the RCO contract with Aeralis. This private aircraft company is adopting an innovative approach that I have not seen before in the combat air sector.
“Its ingenious and innovative use of modularity, together with applying lessons learnt from the commercial sector offers the potential to break the capability cost curve that has dogged military fast jet programs for many generations.
“The design philosophy could be disruptive, providing a means to improve international competitiveness and shift away from expensive bespoke platforms.”
Last month, World of Aviation reported how the British Royal Navy has signed a £550 million contract for new surface-attack missiles for its fleet of 17 F-35Bs, based at RAF Marham.
MBDA will provide the new “SPEAR3” missiles that can travel long distances at high-subsonic speeds and knock out warships, tanks and armoured vehicles.
The technology has been developed over the past decade and will be introduced to the front line over the next seven years.
Weighing under 90 kilograms and just 1.8 metres long, SPEAR3 – Select Precision Effects At Range missile No.3 – is powered at high subsonic speeds by a turbojet engine, can operate across land and sea, day or night, and strike at moving and stationary targets.
This ability to attack moving targets will enhance the UK’s future combat air capability and provide immense lethal capability to the Queen Elizabeth Class carrier strike group.