RAF selects Swift for net-zero powerplant project

The RAF has engaged with British aircraft designer and manufacturer Swift Technology Group, to use the manufacturer’s eponymous Swift light aircraft as a testbed for the service’s push toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The Swift, which is the first British civil aircraft to be wholly designed, manufactured and certified in the UK in more than two decades has been selected for Monet, an RAF Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) project exploring greener propulsion alternatives and considering the environmental effects of operating with those powerplants. Among the technologies being considered are all- electric battery power, hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion, hybrid-electric configurations, as well as synthetic fuel use in combustion engines.

Swift was selected in part because several of those propulsion technologies are part of the Swift’s development road map. The company has defined an architecture for the aircraft to support alternative power systems and has selected two ‘as-yet’ undisclosed UK-based partners to support the work.

Under development at the former RAF Coltishall, the Swift is an all-composite, two-seat, low-wing, aerobatic-capable aircraft that the company hopes will appeal to the pilot-training and general aviation market. Interest in the aircraft from the general aviation industry has been encouraging, STG officials say. Concept design for the development of the aircraft has been taking place over the last decade and is now “mature” the company reports.

After the planned first flight this year, certification meeting the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) CS-23 requirements for Normal, Utility, Aerobatic and Commuter aircraft is expected in 2025-26, with the different propulsion options to be offered later.

The Monet project is “complementary to our goals” says David Stanbridge, founder and managing director of STG, adding that the Monet efforts are seen as a way to refine the aircraft further.

Crucially, STG has an eye on proposing Swift to meet the RAF’s ambition to deliver an electric-powered, fully aerobatic training aircraft thatwould replace the Grob G 115 Tutor aircraft that are currently in service. That fleet is used for preservice flying training, grading and assessment, as well as support of the RAF’s University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights. That broader programme, called Project Telum, aims to deliver such an aircraft by around 2027.

STG says the timing is right for a new light training aircraft, noting that pilot-training requirements are expanding and calling for more training to be done on fewer platforms. The Swift, the company says, will feature a large cockpit for a broader demographic of pilots to fit comfortably, while its aerobatic capability “will broaden the scope of training that operators can provide to customers,” including upset prevention and recovery training.

“Monet will be an exciting journey into the future of sustain- able flight for the RAF,” said Group Capt. Willy Hackett, the military head of flight test for Team Tempest. “We will develop and understand the technologies to enable future military aircrew and air cadets to begin their journey into aviation, and yet not adversely impact the world we all share.”

In addition to Project Monet, the RAF is continuing to explore the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and synthetic alternatives. In early April, Eurofighter Typhoons were refuelled in midair with a 43% blend of SAF provided by an RAF Airbus A330 Voyager tanker. As well as reducing the service’s carbon emissions, the synthetic fuel efforts are aimed at lessening reliance on supply chains.

Image accredited to the Royal Airforce and Swift Technology Group

Author: FTN Editor

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