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The DARPA gambit. The rotary detonation engine is supposed to be a game changer

The emerging arms race means that many projects that have until now been seen as curiosities or just slow have the potential to get there much faster. This can be seen in a number of interesting DARPA programs, one of the most interesting of which concerns rotary detonation engines.

Detonation vs. Deflagration

There is a common belief that whether in rocket engines or rockets for firearms, etc., the materials collected there are detonated, which, however, is not true. Combustible or explosive materials release their energy during the combustion process, which differs from an explosion in the dynamics of the combustion process.

The deflagration process occurs at subsonic speeds, with a supersonic explosion, most often exceeding it many times. From a thermodynamic point of view, detonation is more energy efficient, we can get more thrust with the same amount of fuel. However, its nature also contains a number of complications, which means that they are not yet applied in practice.

For several years, work has been carried out on structurally simpler, but less efficient, impulse detonation engines, the cycle of which, as the name suggests, is based on generating successive explosions.

Rotation instead of momentum

The Americans even created an experimental Long-EZ aircraft with this design, and the test results were very promising, which allowed to save fuel by 5 to 20%. The real holy grail, however, is the continuously running rotary detonation engine. Due to the creation of a special chamber with multiple fuel and oxidant injection points, multiple detonation waves circulating within this chamber are generated.

The first successful projects of this type were built only recently and are still in the early prototype stage. DARPA, especially in the hypersonic race, wants to strike the iron while it’s hot and has just created the GAMBIT program, which should lead to the rapid acquisition of this type of structure for new missiles and rockets.

“The goal of the Gambit program is to develop and demonstrate a new Rotary Detonation Engine (RDE) propulsion system that will enable mass and low-cost long-range hypersonic weapons suitable for air-to-ground strikes in A2AD-equipped regions. ”

It’s no secret who owns these A2AD neighborhoods…

The companies that want to present their projects will face a two-stage selection process. In the first stage, the initial prototype will be evaluated, from which the best will go to the finals and receive grants to build the final engines. In the second stage, the last ones will be tested, and the best ones will be tested in air tests.

Research and Development Rules

It should be added that the research centers of the Air Force in the United States are also working on several projects of this type from this year, including the RDE engine for fighters. So it seems that Americans are convinced that a revolution in this regard is at hand. Looking at a number of DARPA programs, some of which I have described on Antyweb, I am sorry to compare it to the activities of the Polish Ministry of Defense.

Today, the best invest in research and development to gain military and economic advantage through state-of-the-art equipment, patents and patents. In Poland, however, this plot is still neglected. Well, apparently, PR photos are taken worse against the background of a laboratory than against the background of a tank bought from abroad. And yet, at our institute, Lukasevich is also working on such an engine, but he has to do it at a cheap price compared to the first world.

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