France completes testing of sixth-generation aircraft engines

The Defense Procurement and Technology Branch has completed testing of the prototype engine of the Future Air Combat System aircraft.

These tests mark the completion of the two-phase Turenne program, launched by the French aeronautical engine manufacturer Safran in 2015 under the supervision of the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) Project Engineering at the Balard site in Paris.

The prototype used in the tests was derived from the engine of the Rafale aircraft.

Engine on test bench at DGA Propellant Testing. Image: DGA

Thermocoloration test

The first phase of the program consisted in creating, digitally testing and producing “an innovative turbine concept using modern processes: scalable digital model, 3D digital simulations, digital design of new metal alloys, prototyping in additive manufacturing”.

The second phase was launched in 2019 including field tests, “using the thermocolor technique, with the objective of comparing the thermal mapping obtained in real life with the data from the simulations carried out digitally in phase 1”.

The thermocolor technique “requires a heat-sensitive paint; applied to the blades of the blades of the high pressure turbine of the engine, it measures the temperature thanks to a change of color”, specifies the DGA.

The turbine developed as part of the Turenne project. Image: Saffron

Other tests

The results of the Thermocolor tests will now be analyzed followed by endurance tests over several months. The endurance tests will consist of subjecting the engine’s turbine blades to “accelerated aging…to verify their lifespan and their ability to guarantee a high level of operational performance over long periods of time”.

At the same time, DGA Techniques Aéronautiques and the Balma test center are working with Safran to develop a heat-resistant ceramic material. Once built, the material will be tested for heat resistance.

Future air combat system

The Future Air Combat System is an air combat system program involving France, Spain and Germany.

The multinational, multi-company project includes a sixth-generation fighter and a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Announced five years ago, the system will replace French Rafales, German Typhoons and Spanish EF-18 Hornets in the 2040s, with a demonstrator expected around 2027.

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