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.

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B-2 vs B-21: What's the difference between the USAF's old and new stealth bombers? 

The USAF has officially entered the age of sixth-generation combat aircraft with the B-21 Raider. Combat Aircraft Journal  reports on the rollout of America’s second stealth bomber and analyzes what we know so far about this highly classified aircraft

USAF ushers in era of the B-21 after new stealth bomber makes public debut

The USAF marked a major milestone in its history on December 2, when the air arm ushered in a new age of sixth-generation combat aircraft with the public unveiling of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber at Northrop Grumman’s production facilities in Palmdale, California

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What will the USAF's bomber fleet look like after the B-21's introduction?

As the USAF announced the much anticipated date, David Axe reports on the upcoming Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider reveal.

Japan receives more E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes

A further two Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes have been delivered by sea to Japan

NATO receives first upgraded RQ-4D Phoenix

The first RQ-4D Phoenix HALE UAV to complete the so-called Maritime Mode software upgrade and subsequent testing with the type’s manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, was returned to the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force at Sigonella Air Base in Sicily, Italy, on September 17

Raytheon, Northrop selected to deliver Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile to USAF

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, in partnership with Northrop Grumman, has been selected to develop and deliver the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) to the USAF

USAF, Northrop Grumman reveal schedule for planned B-21 rollout

The USAF and Northrop Grumman revealed on September 20 that the B-21 Raider – the air arm’s next-generation stealth bomber – will be formally unveiled to the public for the first time in early December, ahead of the type’s planned first flight in 2023.

Northrop Grumman unveils first MQ-4C Triton for Australia

Northrop Grumman revealed Australia’s maiden MQ-4C Triton autonomous aircraft, serial number A57-001, during a ceremony at its high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft production site in Palmdale, California, on September 14

USAF’s 16th ACCS completes final Joint STARS flight

The 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron – a part of the USAF’s 461st Air Control Wing – marked a major milestone on September 8, when the unit flew its final local sortie with the Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint STARS from Robins AFB, Georgia

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What happened to the Northrop Grumman/EADS North America KC-45A?

Finding a new tanker for the USAF has never been an easy process. David Willis details the highs and lows of the Northrop Grumman/EADS North America KC-45A in the KC-X programme

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.