Boeing was granted a patent for a swept-wing powered lift aircraft on 26 March, which looks like it is based on the company’s submission to the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s Speed Agile program–which is a “collaborative effort” between NASA, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
The AFRL program aims to study what it would take to develop a stealthy short take-off replacement for the C-130 Hercules series that could take-off and land in less than 1500ft and cruise at around Mach 0.8.
In any case, if the nation were ever to actually build something like this, it’s not inconceivable that there could eventually be gunship and tanker variants. Of course, developing something like this would take money–something America is currently a little short on.
The SACD’s high-efficiency STOL design incorporates a hybrid powered lift system. This lift system features a simplified mechanical design and low-drag integration. This lift system minimizes the engine size requirement so that both propulsion integration drag and power differential between takeoff and cruise are as small as possible, eliminating a major source of fuel efficiency problems and speed limitations in legacy systems.
Through a series of developments and demonstrations, the Speed Agile team concluded their effort in 2012 with large-scale validation tests and transonic validation tests, followed by a flight control simulation in which pilots rated the system highly.
Efficient point-to-point travel enabled by the SACD has the potential to eliminate dependence on major airports and extensive surface infrastructure to save time, fuel and environment. The resulting impact of this ability is a dramatic reduction in logistics footprint, fuel burn and time required to move people and supplies anywhere in the world via direct delivery to a forward base.