Lockheed Martin announces new jet engine, and it may not be as big as you think

Once the mainstay of air travel, plane engines are getting smaller and simpler and it’s becoming harder to replace them with newer ones that are more efficient. On Wednesday, though, Lockheed Martin announced a…

Lockheed Martin announces new jet engine, and it may not be as big as you think

Once the mainstay of air travel, plane engines are getting smaller and simpler and it’s becoming harder to replace them with newer ones that are more efficient. On Wednesday, though, Lockheed Martin announced a $2.8 billion contract with an aerospace partner called United Technologies for what it claims is the world’s first “bullet engine.” The new engine, which will be built by Pratt & Whitney, has the ability to replace conventional jet engines by using the latest sensors, engines and electronics.

Lockheed’s Bizjets chief Tom Gendron told Forbes, “It’s actually, I think, one of the biggest technological milestones we’ve ever had in the commercial aviation industry.” The goal is to create, in just two years, a multi-engine jet capable of up to five times the fuel efficiency and down to half the operating cost of conventional aircraft. The first plane should be available in 2022.

Lockheed was wise to put its bets on Pratt & Whitney. The company, the fourth-largest in the world, would be hitting the jackpot if the contract comes to fruition.

Still, the project has a long way to go. To prove that they can build an engine that flies five times as fast as conventional aircraft engines, Lockheed and Pratt need to build the new technology. Not every single element of the new engine can be purchased as standard equipment and every component has to be designed from scratch. And if they do prove that the new jet can run at a five times faster clip, will it be enough to compete with plane engines already in service from Airbus and Boeing?

Not so fast, Lockheed says. In February, Gendron said, “We’re not competing with an A320 or 737. We’re at the same horsepower level, and at what we do, a T-28 powerplant.” The goal is to grow the market by developing a version that’s faster and more fuel efficient for smaller airplanes like turboprops.

In the meantime, Lockheed will design the engine that will be used for the smaller aircraft.

Read the full story at Forbes.

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