The single shaft layout and the modest diametre of 81cm restrict the growth potential of the engine and future efforts with probably concentrate on further improving the already excellent reliability and proven low operating costs of the M53 together with a modest thrust increase. Snecma developed a variant known as the -P20 with an A/B rating of 98 kiloNewton. The -P20 attracted no customers and has been superceded by the -PX3 programme.
The -PX3 upgrade focuses on an improved FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) based on the model used in the M88, a new turbine disk and a modified afterburner.. According to Snecma, the PX3 upgrade effectively replaces 25% of the engine. The performance improvements include faster acceleration, higher thrust rating and reduced fuel burn as well as lower operating costs.The M53 P2 has a relatively modest turbine entry tempature (TET) of 1327 °C and it is possible that Snecma will use the materials developed for the turbine of the M88, installed in the Rafale. The M88 has an extremely high TET and M53 turbine blades made of the same material could extend the life of the turbine considerably or allow the M53 to run considerably hotter which could reduce the fuel consumption. Snecma had previously suggested that full scale development could begin in early 2002. However, prolonged negotiations with customer nations and their industries, have delayed the implementation of the programme and it is now expected that following a successful conclusion the PX3 will be launched in the first quarter of 2004.
The prospect of a re-engined Mirage is indeed tantalizing. Although a significant thrust increase is out of the question, a stretched M88 (to be installationally compatible) with
approximately the same thrust rating would lower the combat fuel consumption (with an attendant increase in range without the need for more fuel) and also reduce the empty weight of the aircraft, again with a reduction in fuel consumption.
The M88-2, although only recently having started it´s career, has established itself as an extremely user-friendly engine. By January 2001Snecma had cleared the M88-2 for a 500 hour service cycle and are looking at extending the interval
to 800 or 1000 hours.
Given the current state of defence expenditure throughout the world and the good prospects for the -PX3, an M88 powered Mirage 2000 is probably a distant prospect.