Rolls has designs on USAF engine

Rolls-Royce has won a $296m (£149m) contract from the US Air Force Research Laboratory to design a jet engine that combines high performance and fuel efficiency.

The UK group’s Indianapolis-based subsidiary, LibertyWorks, will work on the initial research, component testing and preliminary design stage of the five-year Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) project.

The aim of ADVENT is to develop inlet, engine and exhaust technologies that would allow an aircraft to switch from high-speed combat manoeuvres to long-range cruising as effortlessly as a bird in flight, while achieving a good level of fuel efficiency in both modes.

Existing turbine engines are designed to operate optimally in a single flight mode and pilots have to use the throttle to match thrust when conditions are not optimal, which is said to diminish fuel efficiency and performance. The new engine design, however, would use adaptive fans and engine cores to generate high thrust when needed, and optimize fuel efficiency during cruise mode.

AFRL also awarded a $231m contract to GE Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the initial stage of the project.

The contracts are scheduled to reach completion in September 2012.

Project ADVENT is part of the Versatile, Affordable Advanced Turbine Engines Program (VAATE), which is managed by the Propulsion Directorate.