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.

US Navy awards AGM-88G missile production contract

The US Navy has awarded Northrop Grumman the contract to proceed with low-rate initial production for the AGM-88G Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range

US industry completes test flight of scramjet-powered hypersonic missile

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, in partnership with Northrop Grumman, completed the first flight test of a scramjet-powered Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept weapon system

DARPA awards Northrop Grumman PNT contract

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Blackjack programme has awarded Northrop Grumman a contract for Phase 2 development of an advanced, software-defined positioning, navigation and timing payload, with options to build units destined for space flight

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Five B-21 stealth bomber prototypes are now in production

The USAF’s newly appointed Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, has confirmed that there are now five Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider test aircraft in production at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California

USAF B-2A Spirit damaged in emergency landing

A USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit stealth bomber assigned to the 509th BW experienced an in-flight malfunction during a routine training mission on September 14 and made an emergency landing at Whiteman AFB

US Navy’s AARGM-ER missile enters production

Northrop Grumman has announced the AGM-88G Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM-ER), developed under contract with the US Navy, has achieved a Milestone C decision

Leonardo, Northrop Grumman to deliver CIRCM pointer/trackers to US Army

Leonardo and Northrop Grumman have signed a five-year agreement for Leonardo to provide pointer/trackers for the US Army’s Common Infrared (IF) Countermeasures (CIRCM) programme as it enters full-rate production.

Northrop Grumman opens Missile Defence Futures Lab in Alabama

Northrop Grumman Corporation recently opened its new Missile Defence Futures Lab (MDFL) in Huntsville, Alabama. The company’s new MDFL is a pioneering change with a precision to develop, test and field an integrated missile defence system.

Northrop Grumman to support NATO’s airborne surveillance

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a five-year contract from the NATO Support and Procurement Agency in support of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance capability

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Bell unveils design concepts for HSVTOL aircraft

Bell Textron revealed design concepts for military aircraft equipped with the company's High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing (HSVTOL) technology on August 2

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