BAE Systems have lifted the lid on some futuristic technologies that could be incorporated in military and civil aircraft of 2040 or even earlier.
The Transformer is a flexible aircraft system that combines smaller jets for more efficient travel, before having them split apart to quickly adapt to any scenario.
The concept can be tailor-made to suit any scenario. For longer journeys, smaller sub-aircraft can be combined together during travel, to increase the range of the jet and save fuel through reducing ‘drag’.
Once they have reached their objective however, the craft can then split off and adapt to any given situation — whether that is going on the offensive if threatened, or performing functional tasks such as surveillance or the dropping of supplies.
BAE looked at having on board 3d printing.
Smaller unmanned aircraft — or UAVs — are created by super high-tech on-board 3D printers, via Additive Layer Manufacturing and robotic assembly techniques. The 3D printers respond to data fed to them by a remote control room where a human commander decides what should be produced.
The UAVs are best suited to each scenario — be it a group of wide-winged aircraft for protracted or enduring surveillance — or rotary-winged UAVs to rescue single civilians or soldiers from dangerous situations. After use the UAVs could render themselves useless through dissolving circuit boards or they might safely land in a recoverable position if re-use was required.
This creates the ultimate adaptable taskforce, with a lead aircraft able to enter any unknown scenario and quickly manufacture an effective toolset for any task.
BAE also has the concept to use lightweight fluid in carbon nanotubes to seal damaged planes as they are flying.
BAE also sees combat lasers on fighters.
The goal of the General Atomics (DARPA funded) High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program is to develop a high-energy laser weapon system (150 kW) with an order of magnitude reduction in weight compared to existing laser systems.
With a weight goal of less than 5 kg/kW, HELLADS will enable High-Energy Lasers (HELs) to be integrated onto tactical aircraft and will significantly increase engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems.
The HELLADS program has completed the design and demonstration of a revolutionary subscale high-energy laser that supports the goal of a lightweight and compact high-energy laser weapon system. An objective unit cell laser module with integrated power and thermal management is being designed and fabricated and will demonstrate an output power of over 34 kW. A test cell that represents one-half of the unit cell laser has been fabricated and used to characterize system losses and diode performance and reliability. The test cell is being expanded to a unit cell. Based on the results of the unit cell demonstration, additional laser modules will be fabricated to produce a 150 kW laser that will be demonstrated in a laboratory environment. The 150 kW laser then will be integrated with an existing beam control capability to produce a laser weapon system demonstrator. The capability to shoot down tactical targets such as surface-to-air missiles and rockets will be demonstrated.
They will put the laser first onto a AC130 gunship within a couple of years and then onto fighters a few years after.
SOURCES- youtube, BAE, General Atomics