Unmanned air vehicle specialist Aurora Flight Sciences is to compete with Lockheed Martin to build an all-composite cargo X-plane for the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The demonstrator is planned to fly within 18 months under the Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA) programme, to prove structural design and manufacturing technologies that would reduce the cost and weight of a future short take-off and landing transport.

AMC-X W445 
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ACCA will support the Advanced Joint Air Combat System (AJACS) now being defined by USAF Air Mobility Command as a possible future replacement for the Lockheed Martin C-130 tactical transport.

AFRL has awarded Aurora a $47 million contract and signed a $49 million co-operative agreement with Lockheed. Each has received an initial $2 million to begin design of their competing demonstrators.

One of the companies is expected to be selected later this year to build and fly a single X-plane demonstrator by the end of next year.

In its call for proposals, the AFRL outlined a notional advanced STOL light transport capable of 400kt (740km/h), pressurised and carrying three cargo pallets, 20 troops or a light wheeled vehicle.

While not representative of the AJACS, the notional flight profile and cargo volume "require the demonstrator to be built like a transport", says AFRL.

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Source: FlightGlobal.com