Britain Wants to Make the F-35 a Hypersonic Stealth Fighter

Can an F-35 be turned into a hypersonic aircraft?

News last month that Britain is boosting its hypersonic weapons program didn’t come as a surprise. Many other nations are doing it.

plans to rework the jet engines on the 1990s Eurofighter Typhoon—which propel the aircraft to Mach 2—into hypersonic engines that could achieve Mach 5 or faster.” data-reactid=”21″>What caught everyone’s attention was that there are plans to rework the jet engines on the 1990s Eurofighter Typhoon—which propel the aircraft to Mach 2—into hypersonic engines that could achieve Mach 5 or faster.

Which naturally led to a question: can existing fourth- and fifth-generation fighters—which operate at speeds of around Mach 2 or less—become Mach 5 speed demons?

Sabre engine from British firm Reaction Engines. Sabre aims to combine the advantages of both conventional jet engines with rocket engines. Ground tests have shown that demonstrated that the engine is capable of flying faster than Mach 3, according to Defense News.” data-reactid=”23″>The technology in question is the Sabre engine from British firm Reaction Engines. Sabre aims to combine the advantages of both conventional jet engines with rocket engines. Ground tests have shown that demonstrated that the engine is capable of flying faster than Mach 3, according to Defense News.

Forces.com. “This means the engine does not need to cope with extreme temperatures which requires special materials.”” data-reactid=”24″>“SABRE’s unique feature is a precooler which reduces the temperature of the incoming compressed air,” explains British defense site Forces.com. “This means the engine does not need to cope with extreme temperatures which requires special materials.”

“At high altitudes, it is a rocket, but, at lower altitudes, it works like a jet engine – sucking in and compressing air.”

One option that the RAF is considering for development of hypersonic engines is to add pre-cooler technology to the EJ-200 gas turbine engine that currently powers the Typhoon.

Alas, that isn’t the same as sticking a hypersonic engine on an older fighter.

“You shouldn’t read into that we are somehow going to achieve a hypersonic Typhoon,” said Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier.

There is more to developing a hypersonic aircraft than sticking a new engine in an old airframe. To turn a fourth- or fifth-generation aircraft, such as the F-16 or F-35, would invoke a variety of airframe, aerodynamic and avionics issues.

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