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New Adaptive Cycle Engine for F-35 Completes Testing, Fighter Stepping Into a New Age

Ever since 2016, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) has been looking for a new engine to slap into its fifth-generation F-35 fighter plane. The engine didn’t get to be detailed until 2019, and testing didn’t start until earlier in 2021.
GE adaptive cycle engine for the F-35 6 photos
GE XA100 adaptive cycle engineGE XA100 adaptive cycle engineGE XA100 adaptive cycle engineGE XA100 adaptive cycle engineGE XA100 adaptive cycle engine
The engine is called XA100, and it’s being put together by GE Edison Works. It’s of the adaptive cycle kind, meaning it has a high-thrust mode for maximum power and a high-efficiency mode for fuel saving. It should provide around 45,000 lbf of thrust (10 percent more than current engines), will have 25 percent more fuel efficiency, and significantly higher heat dissipation. All in a package that is no larger than present-day designs.

GE built two prototypes of the XA100 and completed testing of the first one back in May 2021. The second one wrapped up its duties inside the Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) earlier this week, thus allowing the company to achieve “the final major contract milestone” in the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP).

Although this is a major achievement, the engine is nowhere near ready for deployment. More prototypes will have to be made and tested, but GE is ready to transition to an engineering and manufacturing stage. The F-35 rocking this engine should fly in the skies of the world by the end of the decade.

Compared to existing F-35s, which use Pratt & Whitney engines, the upcoming versions will be able to fly for longer distances (30 percent more, with current range being 1,350 miles/2,173 km for the F-35A), and accelerate 20 percent faster.

“The XA100 is the only F-35 propulsion modernization option that has been built, fully tested, and evaluated against Air Force performance targets, and the only option that provides the Air Force the capability it needs to outpace its adversaries for decades to come” said in a statement David Tweedie, GE Edison Works’ vice president and general manager for Advanced Products.

Most importantly, the sixth-generation fighter aircraft now in development, the so-called Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD), will get this engine too.

press release

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