The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has tested a first-of-its-kind, low-cost turbojet engine under the Gray Wolf low-cost cruise missile program.
The program is being developed in cooperation with Northrop Grumman and Technical Directions Inc. (TDI).
The TDI-J85 engine underwent a successful flight test campaign culminating in multiple inflight starts and operation at high altitude. According to AFRL, the engine met performance expectations for thrust and surpassed fuel efficiency expectations.
The engines tested accumulated sufficient inflight operating time, building confidence in the design durability. As explained, the design focused on affordability and manufacturability, which enables increased production.
AFRL added that this was the first engine in its class and price point to successfully operate at altitude. The successful test has brought AFRL a step closer to launching a low cost cruise missile.
Gray Wolf is an Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) directed prototype production and demonstration of low-cost cruise missile. These low-cost cruise missiles will offer a stand-off solution with a variable payload capability, meaning the missiles are designed to cruise for distances greater than 250 nautical miles and can accommodate multiple mission profiles.
Additionally, the program explored using multiple Gray Wolf missiles in a networked swarm to meet an evolving warfighter mission requirement.
“The success of this test greatly increases our confidence in the performance of the engine and weapon systems as a whole. Developing the TDI-J85 engine in parallel to the cruise missile has proved challenging, but the collaborative partnership between AFRL, TDI, and Northrup Grumman has been outstanding.” – Col Garry Haase, AFRL/RW Director