Fighter Future: Could British Jets Double Their Flying Speed?

Hypersonic engines could mean fighter jets twice as fast as the RAF’s newest planes.

The UK is to spend £10 million to develop technology for new hypersonic engines – that could mean fighter jets twice as fast as the RAF’s newest planes.

The outgoing Chief of the Airstaff announced the plan at his annual Air and Space Power Conference in London. 

Sir Stephen Hillier said: "We are now developing hypersonic propulsion systems.

"These will be designed and tested over the next two years, paving the way for the UK to become a centre of excellence in this technology and contribute to meeting future UK defence needs."

It is hoped that at high altitude and depending on various factors such as payload, speeds of up to Mach 5 could be reached.

His announcement comes at a time when the UK’s newest fighter jets, the F35-Bs, are only starting to enter service.

They can travel at just over 1 and a half times the speed of sound, while hypersonic engines could lead to planes travelling at twice that speed.

While it is still very much at the ideas stage, Tempest, which is the concept for the next generation of fighter jets for the RAF, could be a candidate for future hypersonic engines.

Tempest fighter jet
The concept model of the aircraft was unveiled this week (Picture: PA).

The service says it is not just looking at technology to go faster.

Air Vice-Marshal Simon Rochelle, Chief of Staff Capability said: "These platforms are brilliant, they are great gatherers of additional information but unless we're moving that information around to soldiers, to sailors, we aren't doing what we need to do.

"Everybody has to get that information, that we describe as the speed of relevance, to allow them to do what they are trying to achieve."

It will likely be a couple of decades before the Typhoon is replaced with something that might fly at Mach 5, but the Chief of the Air staff says we cannot wait around in that time because our adversaries will be working on better technology too.