Military Aircraft Technology

Military science and engineering advances span many industries from metals to composites, electronics to computers, propulsion to fuels and beyond. The military needs to move materiel farther, more quickly and more energy efficiently leading to cutting-edge science, breakthroughs in engineering and technology that advance the state-of-the art; all of which are improvements that can be applied to the wider society.

The aircraft technology that can be found in this section includes engines, propulsion, radar, stealthy materials, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems and much more. Engine technology strives for greater efficiency with turbines for propeller driven transport aircraft and jet engines becoming more capable of cruising at supersonic speeds. On-board radars are achieving greater sophistication with advances in computing power and quantum radar is being developed that could enhance conventional radar. The composite skins and their coatings will continue to be improved to enhance their stealthy characteristics and make their maintenance easier.

The fast-paced world of Military Aerospace Technology

The early aircraft of the 20th century started life as wood and fabric machines with two wings and one or more piston engines driving propellers. The technology of military aircraft evolved, and the two wings became one wing. The cockpit became enclosed and the pilot, or pilots, gained an on-board oxygen supply. The structure and skin became metal by World War Two whilst the piston driven propeller was replaced by a jet engine and the wing became swept to allow for supersonic flight, as the military fighter flew higher and faster.

Eventually engine exhaust nozzles could be vectored for better aerobatics and the infra-red signature of an exhaust suppressed to counter missiles. The transport aircraft remained subsonic but became larger with either jet power or many propellers. A wider variety of military aircraft saw platforms dedicated to missions such as early warning with huge radars. Fighter jets became bombers and electronic warfare specialists, jamming enemy ground radar and communications, not just high-speed interceptors designed for dog fights. A navigator or weapon systems officer would operate the complex avionics systems for these specialised missions and increasingly these onboard computers are linked to a network of satellites. Eventually composites and special coatings came to replace the metal skins as radar defeating stealth technology was adopted.

The Future of Aircraft Technology

On this page you can find the latest in technological developments for military aircraft, piloted or autonomous. You will find here a central resource for the latest advances in aerospace science and engineering, where you can track the progress of research and development programmes around the world, whether they are radar scattering fuselages for stealth, drone wingmen, supersonic engines or avionics that are networked with ground, air and space assets.

Australia to procure an additional MQ-4C Triton

The Australian Department of Defence has announced that it will acquire a third Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

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Historic Aviation: Avro RJX Back to its Best

Preserving Commercial Aviation’s Past...

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Inside Stories: Saluting the Gallic Air Guru

Revered Dassault Aviation test pilot Jean-Marie Saget...

BAE Systems to provide LAIRCM for US KC-130Js

The US Navy has contracted BAE Systems to install, integrate and test the Department of the Navy’s (DoN) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system on its Lockheed Martin KC-130J Hercules tanker/transports.

Fire Scout begins AN/ZPY-8 radar flight trials

The US Navy has commenced flight testing of the Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, equipped with Leonardo’s AN/ZPY-8 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

China to debut Xian H-20 stealth bomber this year?

According to local media sources, China is readying to publicly debut its first domestically-produced strategic subsonic stealth bomber, the Xian H-20, later this year.

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Korean War: Dual Identity

A reconnaissance version of Northrop’s mighty P-61 Black Widow played a vital role...

UH-60V digital cockpit upgrades pass IOT&E

Northrop Grumman-supplied digital cockpit upgrades in the integrated avionics suite aboard the US Army’s UH-60V Black Hawk have recently completed initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E).

US Navy procures two additional E-2Ds

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract to supply and support an additional two E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes for the US Navy.

The Nighthawk Returns!

Last February, Combat Aircraft Journal brought you the incredible story of the still-active F-117A Nighthawks that were photographed and filmed flying at low level in the Mojave Desert. Aircraft continued to be seen throughout 2019, but of recent their appearances had dropped off. However, now the F-117 is back!

Want more? Discover all the latest military airforce news, key updates on military fighter aircraft, military transport aircraft and first-hand coverage from military aircraft shows.