France Completes Sixth-Generation Aircraft Engine Tests

The French defense procurement and technology agency has completed testing of the Future Air Combat System aircraft prototype engine.

The testing marks the completion of the two-phase Turenne program, which was started by French aircraft 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 testing was derived from the Rafale aircraft engine. 

Engine on the test bench at DGA Propellant tests. Image: DGA

Thermocolor Testing  

The first phase of the program involved creating, digital 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 testing, “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 heat-sensitive paint; applied to the blades of the engine’s high-pressure turbine blades, it measures the temperature thanks to a color change,” DGA stated.

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

Further Tests

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

Meanwhile, DGA Aeronautical techniques and the Balma test center are working with Safran to develop heat-resistant ceramic material. Once built, the material will be tested to check its 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 air vehicles.

Announced five years ago, the system will replace the French Rafale, German Typhoons, and Spain’s EF-18 Hornets in the 2040s, with a demonstrator to be expected around 2027. 

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