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.

Final RQ-4D Phoenix delivered to NATO

NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) team accepted its fifth and final Northrop Grumman RQ-4D Phoenix high-altitude, long-endurance UAS in Sigonella, Italy, on November 12

ITPS Canada to promote adversary training for KAI’s FA-50

The International Test Pilots School Canada has signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea Aerospace Industries to promote the FA-50 light combat aircraft for tactical and adversary training

Northrop floats MQ-Next concepts

Northrop Grumman has revealed unmanned aircraft system (UAS) concepts of long unrefuelled ranges, mission endurances greater than 24hrs, robust mission systems, a weapons capacity, open mission systems architectures and a vision vehicle image.

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Eyes of the Fleet: US Navy E-2 Hawkeye

The Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye series has served the US Navy...

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Looking Ahead: KAI KF-X

Key.Aero details South Korea's indigenously-developed KF-X – a multi-role stealth fighter that will enter operational service with the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) by the end of the decade.

KAI’s KF-X prototype enters final assembly

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) launched final assembly of its first Korea Fighter eXperiment (KF-X) multi-role fighter prototype at its Sacheon facility in the South Gyeongsang province on September 1.

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Britain’s Most Successful Commercial Jetliner

The last bastions of British-made jetliners are long gone except for one example that continues to live on. Key.Aero discovers that while arguably the country’s lesser-known offering, the British Aerospace 146 is the UK’s most successful civil jet airliner programme.

EXCLUSIVE: Flying the X-59 QueSST

In the second of a series of exclusive videos, Key.Aero speaks with Lockheed Martin's resident test pilot, Dan "Dog" Canin, who will be one of the few pilots to fly the X-59 QueSST low-boom demonstrator.

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YF-23 Black Widow II: Diamonds Aren't Forever

The story behind how Northrop's YF-23 Black Widow II lost a near-decade-long 'race' with the Lockheed's YF-22 to win the Advanced Tactical Fighter programme.

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What's it like to fly a B-2 Spirit?

Key.Aero speaks to Captain John Wisocky, who recently flew the B-2 Spirit on a mission from the US to the Arctic Circle

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.