Empowering aerospace dominance: RTX is bolstering preparedness for Air and Space Forces against near-peer competitors

As U.S. Air and Space Forces maneuver emerging multipolar threats, they must seek out industry partners that provide modernized capabilities to maintain strategic superiority.

Presented by RTX RTX's logo

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a wakeup call for the defense sector. The conflict showcased just how much the U.S. joint forces and its allies rely on abundant amounts of modernized aerospace munitions amid an increasingly complex and aggressive global landscape.

Moving forward, the collective military industrial team must consider many factors, including limitations on fighter and munitions capacity. Additionally, the defense sector will need to prioritize spending on the capabilities necessary to advance the U.S. Air and Space forces missions and mitigate multipolar threats — or threats that arise as competitors develop capabilities that rival the United States’ — like those posed by Russia, as well as developing tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

“If you look at pressing obstacles on the defense side, [the largest] is the evolution of fight capabilities that our near-peer challengers are attaining,” says Jeff Shockey, who leads global government relations for RTX, a company formed by the integration of aerospace and defense leaders Raytheon, Collins Aerospace, and Pratt & Whitney.

“It's making sure that we stay ahead of the game with tactics, procedures, equipment, and doctrine,” he explains. “We must increase fighter jet capability and advance and procure extended range munitions to maintain increased standoff capabilities, increasing lethality, survivability and affordability.”

Strong partnerships are the key to ensuring defense agencies can gain access to the state-of-the-art resources and cutting-edge insight necessary to meet the demands of multipolar competition.

“We rely on our strong global network to deliver the capabilities needed for today’s most urgent challenges,” Shockey says, noting recent news that RTX is purchasing the venerable air-to-air AMRAAM missiles from various sources in order to deliver to Ukraine for use on F-16s they’re slated to get early next year.

Through the combined industry expertise of its three flagship businesses, RTX pioneers new solutions and pivotal advancements in command and control, advanced propulsion technology, sensors and effectors.

Its team of 186,000 employees, including 65,000 engineers, bring to bear aircraft and weapons that amplify and streamline the connected battlespace both internally, and with international allies, to ensure a collective response.

“In everything that flies, you will find significant RTX products, whether it's Collins Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney or Raytheon,” explains Shockey. “You can't look at current or future platforms without thinking of RTX, without thinking of the connected battlespace.”

For years, Collins Aerospace has been working with Air Force Research Labs to design and manufacture cutting-edge technology for equipment that ultimately ends up on aircraft.

“Their latest project is a 1-megawatt electric generator that could be used to power future manned and unmanned systems safely and efficiently,” Shockey says. “What this team is doing to broaden their electrification work to include more defense-related applications is something to watch closely, as we all know next-gen aircraft are going to need increased power to accomplish their more demanding missions.”

Bolstering propulsion for one of the most successful flight programs in history

A prime example of this global reach is the F135 engine Pratt & Whitney developed for the F-35 fighter over 15 years ago. Now, RTX has the chance to inject even greater readiness and reliability into the esteemed platform via the F135 Engine Core Upgrade (ECU), which will account for additional power and thermal management demands placed on the engine over the years — ensuring sustainability and durability for the combat aircraft now and in the future.

“It was time to do a derivative block upgrade, in the safest way that [can provide] the best benefit for the taxpayer and warfighter in the field, with capability to unlock Block 4 as it comes online over the next several years,” notes Shockey.

The Pratt & Whitney team recently announced its F135 ECU team of 500 engineers is on track to complete preliminary design review by early 2024.

In response to media reports from Honeywell indicating the organization takes issue with the information sharing between Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace’s Enhanced Power and Cooling System (EPACS) teams — since EPACS is a competitor to the Power and Thermal Management System Honeywell currently makes for the F-35 — Shockey states:

“The engine and PTMS systems are completely separate systems on the F -35. Pratt & Whitney is on contract directly with the Joint Program Office (JPO) for the engine, and Honeywell is on contract directly with Lockheed for the PTMS system. We are not allowed to collaborate with Honeywell without explicit direction from the JPO, which we have not received. We've established firewalls between our Pratt ECU and Collins EPACS teams to avoid any conflict of interest. The same applies to Honeywell. We won't be sharing information with them unless the JPO directs us to.”

Investing in cutting-edge technologies to counter advancing threats

Threats are advancing at such a rapid pace that timely and costly traditional development and testing timelines are no longer adequate. RTX helps their government partners tactically prepare for a wide range of battle scenarios virtually through modeling and simulation exercises with advanced digital engineering, digital twins, and virtual replicas that allow agencies to gather vital prospective and predictive analytics that sufficiently prepare for the future battlespace. 

“We have developed industry leading advanced operational analysis software that allows us to understand the threats, how to respond faster, more affordably and in more mission effective ways than ever before,” says Shockey.

According to Shockey, this is no typical analysis tool, describing the capability as ‘eye watering.’

“You can run dozens of missions with dozens of theater-wide considerations to see what combination of response options works best,” he says.

At a recent press event, Raytheon experts walked reporters through a notional scenario of fighters being refueled at various nearby civilian airfields to showcase which option boosted loiter time and offered more potential for destroying threats.

“Our customers can see in real time how the different scenarios and options support Agile Combat Employment missions, and the results are fast and unbiased,” explains Shockey.

RTX also has the unique ability to make its own investments to get ahead of customer needs and ensure their supply chains stay viable while anticipating multi-year contracts in development.

“We continue to look for ways to provide the best possible solutions to keep the U.S. and our allies safe,” says Shockey. “We can trade lessons learned and best practices across our commercial and defense businesses. That's what really makes us a strong aerospace and defense leader.”

Ultimately, with more than a century of engineering experience in providing services and products in nearly every region of the world, RTX understands the challenges of projecting force and the prowess required to engage in a conflict on multiple fronts.

“Our sensing technology, which is ground based, airborne and in space, allows us to detect and track threats in all phases of flight. What we provide to the airborne fleet from fighters and bombers to cargo and tanker aircraft means we can fight anywhere, anytime, with long-range munitions and engines that are required to defeat a multipolar threat,” says Shockey. “RTX's breadth and depth of work allows the organization to think beyond the traditional scope, partnering with the U.S. Air Force, Space Force and allies to develop and provide warfighting solutions well into the future.”

Learn more about how RTX can help your agency combat multipolar threats and meet the aerospace challenges of today and tomorrow.

 This content is made possible by our sponsor. The editorial staff was not involved in its preparation.

NEXT STORY: Advancements in tactical expeditionary radar