By July, the Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to fund Boeing to take the next step in tightly-spaced travel as part of its Formation Flight for Aerodynamic Benefit program.
The idea is to take advantage of the physics that geese and other flocking birds have known for millennia - By keeping the appropriate spacing between leader and follower, the bird behind can cut his or her cruise power requirement by 15% by enjoying "vortex upwash".
The concept has been studied and proven in Germany by the Braunschweig University of Technology with two Do-28s in the mid-1990s and by NASA with two F/A-18s in 2001 (picture left).
In today's Federal Register, DARPA says Boeing will "build upon" technology it developed in an earlier DARPA-funded program.
The sole-source contract for Phase One of the Formation Flight for Aerodyamic Benefit program, value not listed, calls for the airframer to extend "dynamic analysis and simulation tools with existing wake encounter data", perform "detailed flight test planning" and conduct "data gathering flight tests in the wake of a large military transport aircraft."