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New British Trainer Central To The RAF’s Green Agenda

The first British civil aircraft to be wholly designed, manufactured and certified in the UK in more than two decades has found an unexpected role as a testbed for the Royal Air Force’s future technologies.

Startup Swift Technology Group’s (STG) eponymous Swift light aircraft, due to make its first flight later this year, is set to be at the center of the service’s push to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in 2040, ahead of the UK’s legislated target of 2050.

. Startup hopes to fly Swift trainer this year

. RAF aims for net-zero emissions by 2040

The Swift has been selected for Monet, a UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) project exploring greener propulsion alternatives and considering the environmental effects of operating with those powerplants. Among the technologies being considered are all-electric battery power, hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion, hybrid-electric configurations, as well as synthetic fuel use in combustion engines.

Swift was selected in part because several of those propulsion technologies are part of the Swift’s development road map. The company has defined an architecture for the aircraft to support alternative power systems and has selected two as-yet-undisclosed UK-based partners to support the work.

Under development at the former RAF Coltishall, England, the Swift is an all-composite, two-seat, low-wing, aerobatic-capable aircraft that the company hopes will appeal to the pilot-training and general aviation market. Interest in the aircraft from the general aviation industry has been encouraging, STG officials say. Concept design for the development of the aircraft has been taking place over the last decade and is now “mature,” the company tells Aviation Week.

After the planned first flight this year, certification—meeting the Euro-pean Union Aviation Safety Agency’s CS-23 requirements for Normal, Utility, Aerobatic and Commuter aircraft—is expected in 2025-26, with the different propulsion options to be offered later.

If successful, it will be the first British aircraft to be certified since the Avro RJ series of regional airliners.

The Monet project is “complementary to our goals,” says David Stanbridge, founder and managing director of STG, adding that the Monet efforts are seen as a way to refine the aircraft further. Crucially, STG has an eye on proposing Swift to meet the RAF’s ambition to deliver an electric-powered, fully aerobatic training aircraft that would replace the Grob G 115 Tutor aircraft that are currently in service. That fleet is used for preservice flying training, grading and assessment, as well as support of the RAF’s University Air Sqdns. and Air Experience Flights. That broader program, called Project Telum, aims to deliver such an aircraft by around 2027; work on Project Monet could put the Swift in a good position for Telum. The company also received an innovation loan from the UK Defense Ministry’s Defense and Security Accelerator (DASA) (AW&ST July 26-Aug. 8, 2021, p. 52).

Company officials say the Defense Ministry assessments for securing the DASA loan and now the Monet work “validate” its approach to development.

STG says the “timing is right” for a new light training aircraft, noting that pilot-training requirements are expanding and calling for more training to be done on fewer platforms. The Swift, the company says, will feature a large cockpit for a broader demographic of pilots to fit comfortably, while its aerobatic capability “will broaden the scope of training that operators can provide to customers,” including upset prevention and recovery training.

The RCO will have access to two Swift aircraft as part of the trials, as well as access to the company’s technology development. Flight assessment will be performed by test pilots from both Swift and the Defense Ministry. Other partners in Project Monet include: Babcock, the current provider of the Grob Tutor fleet as well as an MRO provider; CFS Aero; Zero Petroleum; electric powertrain specialist Delta Cosworth; and Uplift360, a recycling technology company.

“Monet will be an exciting journey into the future of sustainable flight for the RAF,” said RAF Group Capt. Peter Hackett, the military head of flight test for Team Tempest. “We will develop and understand the technologies to enable future military aircrew and air cadets to begin their journey into aviation, and yet not adversely impact the world we all share.”

In addition to Project Monet, the RAF is continuing to explore the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and synthetic alternatives. In early April, Eurofighter Typhoons were refueled in midair with a 43% blend of SAF provided by an RAF Airbus A330 Voyager tanker. As well as reducing the service’s carbon emissions, the synthetic fuel efforts are aimed at lessening reliance on supply chains.


  • Norwich NR10 5FB, UK
  • Swift Technology Group