Ultra-fast Engine Program Unveiled

DARPA announced earlier this month its intent to pursue a novel high-speed propulsion system under a new program called Vulcan. This engine would be capable of accelerating future long-range strike or reconnaissance aircraft from rest to speeds greater than Mach 4. And when coupled with supersonic combustion ramjets, it would power full-scale hypersonic cruise vehicles from rest to speeds at which the scramjet would ignite and propel the aircraft to even faster speeds. DARPA plans to support the design, development and ground test of the engine under Vulcan, which was briefed to industry June 10. (Click here for DARPA’s briefing charts from the event. Please note: It’s a large file.) The agency anticipates issuing a solicitation around the end of the month, with proposals due in mid August, and initial contracts let around October. The notional Vulcan engine will consist of an integrated “constant volume combustion” engine and a full-scale turbine engine already in production (e.g., F100-229, F110-129, F119, or F414) that is capable of operating above Mach 2. CVC engine architectures could include pulsed detonation engines, continuous detonation engines, or “other unsteady” CVC approaches, the agency said. USAF made history in January by flying a PDE-powered manned aircraft for the first time ever. DARPA said the CVC engine would operate from below the upper Mach limit of the turbine engine to Mach 4 plus.