Aviation

New horizons for European Defense

Avio Aero strengthens its role among European aviation companies being a reference point in research and development of new engine technologies for Defense.

Dec 2022

Creating innovative technologies in Europe and for Europe: this is “the course charted by Avio Aero, partly thanks to the investments and solutions developed so far. Evidence of this is Airbus’s selection of Catalyst to power the first drone resulting from European industrial collaboration - the Eurodrone - and the company’s participation in the GCAP program (Global Combat Air Programme) - where Avio Aero will be committed, along with Rolls-Royce and IHI Corporation - to develop the propulsion system for the sixth-generation fighter jet.

These brand-new milestones in the Italian company's centenarian history add onto the famous collaborations in the field of propulsion for European Defense programs which defined epochs, namely: the Turbo-Union RB199 for the Panavia Tornado, the EJ200 for the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the TP400 for the Airbus A400M Atlas.

The July 20 announcement by the European Union represents a further leap forward for Avio Aero and its growth in the continental industry. Among the 61 programs selected to be funded by the European Defense Fund’s (EDF, or FED) first €1.2 billion tranche, there is the NEUMANN (Novel Energy and propUlsion systeMs for Air dominance) project. NEUMANN is a consortium made up of 37 companies, universities and research centers work on developing technologies and expertise for developing next-generation propulsion and energy management systems.

That selection was followed on December 15 by the signing of the grant agreement with the European Commission for the NEUMANN project. This grant allocates funds over four years to bear the research and development activities of the consortium led by Avio Aero, for a total worth of about €56 million.

A render image depicting the Global Combat Air Programme, image courtesy of Leonardo.

"NEUMANN offers an opportunity to pursue the technological development of electric power and propulsion systems for the sixth generation of aircraft for the air domain. It is a key project which has, among its priorities, the enhancement of European defense and technological industrial base," explains Marco Silvano, Government Affairs and Funding Leader at Avio Aero.

Funding under the EDF will be strategic in supporting collaboration in defense research and development, promoting innovation and competitiveness in the European industrial sector. As Silvano further explains, “the proposal submitted by the Avio Aero led consortium was recognized precisely for having the best solution to achieve these goals, and that is a source of great satisfaction for us."

Developing the technologies needed to develop and implement power and propulsion systems for the sixth generation of fighter jets is among the key innovation requirements of the EDF's 2021 call. "NEUMANN," Silvano continued, "aims to address some key challenges for the future mission profile, such as increased stealth capabilities, range, electronic warfare, as well as flexibility of use and lower life-cycle costs.

It is a project created to increase expertise in next-generation propulsion. This is a key aspect of building a substantial technological base to meet the propulsion challenges of the future within the European arena. In addition to its role in NEUMANN, Avio Aero is also involved in the EU Next Generation Rotorcraft Technologies Project (ENGRT). In this context, Avio Aero will focus activities on developing technologies and capabilities for the helicopter engines of the future under the coordination of Airbus Helicopters.

Marco Silvano, Government Affairs and Funding Leader at Avio Aero.

"The proposal submitted by the Avio Aero led consortium was recognized precisely for having the best solution to achieve these goals, and that is a source of great satisfaction for us"

“Both projects funded by the European Defense Fund are aimed to address the power and propulsion system of the next generation European aircraft, which will enter into service after 2035," says Andrea Demarin, New Technology Introduction Program Manager at Avio Aero. "The NEUMANN’s goal is to study and validate the enabling technologies for a highly efficient propulsion and energy management system, better integrated with the aircraft and capable of simultaneously providing both a higher power-to-weight ratio and electrical generation capability than the current state of the art."

Research and development activities will mainly focus on the propulsion, electrical, and thermal systems. However, integrating these three systems with the aircraft will play an important role: “contributions of the two aircraft manufacturers partnering the consortium, Leonardo and SAAB, will be crucial. Avio Aero," Demarin continues, "will play a central role in the study of innovative engine architectures, such as in the development of the technologies and materials needed to ensure a jump in the performance of core engine modules, their integration and validation through rig testing.

ENGRT, on the other hand, will target research in the helicopter field. "Avio Aero will work alongside other European engine makers (Safran Helicopter Engine, MTU, Rolls-Royce, and ITP) and aircraft manufacturers (Airbus Helicopter and Leonardo Helicopters) on the power and propulsion system. They will study the introduction of emerging technologies whilst identifying solutions for new engines, which will guarantee the performance required by next-generation helicopters, both traditional types and those with high-speed architectures," Demarin says.

Studies will cover aspects of architecture and integration, including "a conceptual study phase at modules and components level, to prepare a roadmap for introducing related innovative technologies," Demarin says.

A render image of the Eurodrone that will be powered by the Catalyst 1300-ED1, © 2022 Airbus.

Moreover, the first projects funded by the European Defense Fund represent a pivotal moment in the history of European defense cooperation. The EDF is a European Commission initiative aiming to foster the industrial cooperation within the Union, paving the way for the development and production of state-of-the-art, interoperable defense equipment and systems. The next step is to facilitate the future joint acquisitions by member states, thus reducing fragmentation of the demand and the current market inefficiency.

Technologies, skill growth and industrial collaboration will be key to the future of the European defense industry. An active presence in the EDF is just the latest example of Avio Aero's close membership in the European industrial framework and its role in the research and development of new technologies.

"This latest European success of Avio Aero should be only the beginning of a virtuous path and an initial contribution to realizing the ambition of European strategic autonomy. By participating in these programs, Avio Aero has the opportunity to develop highly advanced technologies and products, broaden market opportunities, increase collaboration and synergies with other European companies in the industry, consolidating the company as one of the most capable, innovative and competitive industrial players," Silvano concludes.