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DARPA selects BAE Systems for ‘revolutionary’ aircraft program

The prime has been tapped to design and test next-generation aircraft technology.

The prime has been tapped to design and test next-generation aircraft technology.

The Defense Advanced Research projects Agency (DARPA) has tapped BAE Systems to progress the design and testing of new flow control technologies, which have been tipped to deliver significant operational enhancements to next-generation aircraft.


Specifically, the prime has been tasked with delivering a full-scale demonstrator concept leveraging Active Flow Control, which could enable aircraft to manoeuvre without conventional flight control surfaces, supporting improved performance, maintainability, and survivability.

BAE Systems is expected to undertake mature design, integration, and de-risking activities, including wind tunnel testing, at its facilities in the north-west of England next year.

The new contract, which forms part of DARPA’s Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) project, aims to include Active Flow Control technology in the early stages of the design process in a bid to demonstrate efficiency benefits and improve aircraft cost, weight, performance, and reliability.

This follows on from BAE Systems’ work on the MAGMA UAV program in 2019, in which a subscale aircraft was successfully maneuvered in flight using supersonically blown air and Active Flow Control technologies for the first time.

“BAE Systems has been at the forefront of digital design for more than 20 years,” Tom Fillingham, senior vice president, US programs at BAE Systems Air Sector, said.


“This award enables us to progress Active Flow Control and our digital engineering capabilities at full scale, in collaboration with DARPA and the University of Manchester in the UK.

“Since our ground-breaking MAGMA trials, our engineers across the UK, US, and Australia have continued to innovate to identify improvements in the aircraft digital design process to deliver military value and operational advantages to the warfighter.”

It is hoped that Active Flow Control technologies can supplement or replace conventional moveable control surfaces to help improve the performance of an aircraft and reduce mass and volume, enabling greater payloads and flexibility.

[Related: BAE Systems, 12thLevel partner to bolster Defence data capability]

DARPA selects BAE Systems for ‘revolutionary’ aircraft program
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