(while meeting aircraft performance requirements) and reliability levels commensurate with permissible aircraft loss rate (1 per 108 departures for commercial aircraft). Many military missions also require stealth, which greatly affects engine design and installation. For all types of aircraft (including UAVs), engines and fuel typically account for 40 percent to 60 percent of gross takeoff weight, and the performance of the propulsion system has an enormous effect on air vehicle performance (Figure 5-1).
The gas turbine engine is vastly superior to alternative engines in all propulsion metrics. This high level of performance reflects the intrinsic merits of the concept and the $50 billion to $100 billion invested in gas turbine research and development over the past 50 years. The power-to-weight ratio of gas turbines is three to six times that of aircraft piston engines. The difference in reliability is even greater. The in-flight shutdown (IFSD) rate, a measure of reliability, for gas turbine engines in large commercial aircraft is 0.5 shutdowns for every 105 hours of flight. For single-engine military jet aircraft, the IFSD rate is 2 for every 105 hours. The IFSD rate for light aircraft piston engines is considerably worse, about 5 to 10 for every 105 hours. Although the IFSD statistics are not available for small piston engines in current UAVs, anecdotally, they are even higher. Gas turbines can also operate for long periods of times (4,000 to 8,000 hours) between overhauls, compared to 1,200 to 1,700 hours for aircraft piston engines. The small piston engines in current UAVs are replaced every 100 hours or less of service. The attractiveness of small piston engines is their low cost and the lack of availability of high-performance gas turbines in very small sizes. Alternative propulsion concepts may only be desirable when suitable gas turbines are not available.