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