Service to review emerging designs for wide range of tasks from training to transport and target towing

The US Air Force has signaled its long-anticipated interest in the emerging generation of very light jets (VLJ) by asking manufacturers for detailed performance data as well as their willingness to support potential flight evaluations by air force test pilots by the end of 2006.

VLJ manufacturers have until 2 March to respond to a request for information (RFI) which the USAF says covers a class of aircraft “generally defined by a maximum take-off weight no greater than 4,530kg (10,000lb), powered by one or two gas turbine engines, and a commercial list price of much less than $5 million”.

Flight evaluations will take place at Edwards AFB, California “or at a location of the interested party’s selection”, it says.

Not wishing to limit the scope of the evaluation, and opening the net to include the large number of potential VLJs still in early development, the USAF adds: “VLJ designs that are not mature enough for qualitative evaluations in 2006 are still acceptable.”

The RFI adds the evaluation covers “specific missions that the VLJ class may be suited to perform, including passenger/cargo transport, navigation training, transition training, homeland defence, surveillance and target towing,” but acknowledges that this “is probably not an exhaustive list”.

Companies expected to respond to the RFI include Adam Aircraft with the A700, Aviation Technology Group (ATG) with the Javelin, Cessna with the Citation Mustang, Eclipse Aviation with the Eclipse 500 and Embraer with the Phenom 100.

ATG president George Bye, a fervent proponent of the VLJ for military and homeland defence applications, says “roles such as interdiction and target towing are all the things we designed the Javelin for”.

As with most VLJs, Bye says the Javelin “has great advantages over legacy systems such as the [Lockheed Martin] HC-130, [Dassault] Falcon 20 and [Lockheed] F-16. We can save a remarkable amount of dollars to do all the various military and police functions.”


Source: Flight International