AFRL’s Speed Agile sets USAF airlift agenda

On the subject of carting 30t of armoured fighting vehicle around the battlefield, the US Air Force’s approach to airlifting the Army’s weight-challenged FCS vehicles has become clearer with release of details of the planned Speed Agile concept demonstration.

The cool name reflects the Air Force’s desire for “speed agility”: high lift at low speeds for short take-off and landing from improvised airstrips combined with efficient cruise at speeds beyond Mach 0.8 – something traditional STOL aircraft are not good at.

The baseline specs for Speed Agile are revealing: at least 500nm radius carrying a nominal 29.5t payload at speeds above Mach 0.8, with a mid-mission hot-and-high landing and take-off in under 2,000ft – 1,500ft is desired.

And the cargo box looks familiar – it has the same 4m loading width as the Airbus A400M, which is fast becoming the standard for intra-theatre transport as payloads outgrow the C-130.

No-one gets to build a demonstrator for Speed Agile – the 34-month programme will involve concept design and windtunnel validation of low-speed and transonic performance. But it is one of a raft of Air Force Research Laboratory projects paving the way for AJACS – the Advanced Joint Air Combat System – planned as a replacement for the C-130.

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STOL, speed, stealth – and sex appealAs this AFRL chart shows, View image technology demonstrations are under way or planned for the advanced composite airframe; integrated propulsion, high-lift and flight control; and embedded high-bypass engine with efficient inlet.

And it’s no accident the Boeing YC-14 and McDonnell Douglas YC-15 are used illustrate eventual AJACS flight demonstrators, because that is where this is all heading: back to the STOL tactical transport mission that was conceived during the Vietnam War – and abandoned once it was over. Could history repeat itself?

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YC-14, updated (From new DSB VTOL/STOL report)

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One Response to AFRL’s Speed Agile sets USAF airlift agenda

  1. The Woracle 11 October, 2007 at 8:26 pm #

    The US Army is the customer with most clout at the moment, followed by the Marines and Special Forces. The US Air Force is way down the pecking order. So the Army may call the shots this time round. That is why Boeing its trying to get Army backing for the C-17B as a near-term FCS transporter. If the Army backs it, the Air Force will have to consider it.

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