The Aeralis modular aircraft system streamlines the design, development and in-service support processes for military aircraft across multiple training and front-line roles, helping to reduce the complexity and costs of acquisition and sustainment when compared with more traditional approaches. The new aircraft will be based on a modular system, enabling the company to deliver a range of configurations for different missions by using common fuselage and avionics while switching engines, wings and mission systems.
The plan is not to be able to swap wings, etc. during the plane's service life, but just to build multiple versions with different wings, engines, etc around a common fuselage. The concept is similar to the F-35 ideology: build one set of systems (hydraulic, pneumatic, fuel, flight controls, etc.) that can be bolted into three or four distinct airframes. But if the aircraft is so small that it is only useful as a trainer, (e.g. no significant warload) then it will deprive Third World air forces of light strike airplanes.
The market seemed flooded with existing products. Aeralis seemed to offer little over the existing options like the M-345 or LG-39. There's no/little improvement in training to be had. These kinds of novel 'cheap' trainer designs since the 1960s (eg, Miles Student or RFB Fantrainer for just two examples) have never been a success commercially.
This modular concept looked to some more like a leased fleet management concept. Aeralis may want to lease fleets of trainers to air forces. Bolt on components can be easily replaced when they time-out. After a lease expires, Aeralis trainers can be over-hauled at the factory and re-rolled to other customers. Fewer and fewer air forces won their own trainers, preferring to lease them for shorter periods. The business model is interesting, but the same could be done by operating a fleet of LG-39s, Hawks and T-Xs and leasing these as needed to customers.
By mid-2018 the British start-up company Aeralis was trying to secure £1,000,000 via crowdfunding to design a concept fuselage demonstrator for a “modular” family of military jet trainers in time for September’s DSEI defense show. They billed this as the first all-British military aircraft since the Hawk. If they can raise another £30,000,000 they proposed to fly a prototype by 2021 and hoped to start production by the mid-2020s with a factory at the former RAF St Athan and Bombardier’s Belfast plant supplying the wings and engine pod and Thales UK the avionics. Formula 1 design house Williams Engineering would be contracted to manufacture the composite fuselage.
On 17 February 2021 Suffolk-based Aeralis was given £200,000 by the RAF to develop its 'modular' two-seater aircraft [ enough to put about £100,000 toward actual salaries, which is basically two mid-grade aerospace engineers full time and some fraction of their supervisor's time]. As of 2021 the company claimed to have about 15 people on the payroll.
Aeralis agreed a three-year contract with the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) for research and development into a new modular approach to the design and development of future aircraft. The RCO will support the requirements and design review process to gain an understanding of how Aeralis defines the ways in which agile, modular, commercially-driven aircraft design can develop and certify a broad range of future aircraft systems that could support the RAF’s ambition to rationalise its future fleet.
The aircraft would come in one of three variants depending on requirements. The variants have the same fuselage, but by fitting different engines and wings it can be transformed - allowing the RAF to operate with fewer aircraft in its fleet. An RAF spokesperson said they have no plans to replace the Hawk training craft with this new modular design.
“Aeralis offers an extremely disruptive and innovative approach to design, modelling and certification processes in military aerospace” commented Air Commodore Jez Holmes, the Head of the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office. “We are pleased to be working with Aeralis to explore the modular air-system approach to future aircraft certification, design and development and, in particular, to understand the exploitation potential of Pyramid, our new open mission system architecture.”
With a view to full-scale production, the Aeralis project has the scope to directly create over 200 new UK high-value design and manufacturing jobs, supporting a further 3800 in the UK supply chain.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|