The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) has awarded Aeralis a three-year contract for research and development into a new modular approach to the design and development of future aircraft.

Aeralis is a UK-based aircraft developer creating a new class of transformative military aircraft 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 company has completed phase one and phase two development, with feasibility studies complete and its core team established in preparation to develop a pre-production aircraft with first flight targeted within three years.

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.

“Aeralis is focused on re-inventing how future military aircraft are developed and operated, and we’re delighted to help set the pace and vision for future RAF systems with the Rapid Capabilities Office,” said Tristan Crawford, Aeralis chief executive officer. “As well as helping to enable rapid, digitally-driven development and the certification of flexible, open-architecture aircraft systems, this supports UK prosperity and the Government goal to champion British innovation. We are creating a significant export and global relationship development opportunity for the UK.”

Air Marshal Richard Knighton, deputy chief of Defence Staff, commented, “This private aircraft company is adopting an innovative approach that I have not seen before in the combat air sector. Its ingenious and innovative use of modularity, together with applying lessons learnt from the commercial sector offers the potential to break the capability cost curve that has dogged military fast jet programmes for many generations. The design philosophy could be disruptive, providing a means to improve international competitiveness and shift away from expensive bespoke platforms.”

“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 RCO. “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 create over 200 new UK high-value design and manufacturing jobs, supporting a further 3,800 in the UK supply chain.

by David Oliver