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Industry group head urges US Air Force to better engage with Future Vertical Lift

20 September 2019
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The US Air Force is investigating how commercial electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology being developed by companies such as Embraer with its EmbraerX aircraft could benefit the service. The head of a vertical flight trade group thinks the USAF should better engage with the Pentagon's Future Vertical Lift effort. Source: Embraer

Key Points

  • The head of an industry group suggests the US Air Force better engage with the Pentagon on its Future Vertical Lift programme
  • The USAF wants to investigate the utility of electric VTOL aircraft, but the industry group chief believes this will not provide the necessary military utility

The US Air Force (USAF) should better engage with the Pentagon on its Future Vertical Lift (FVL) next-generation rotary wing development programme instead of relying on commercial industry to provide similar capability, according to the head of an influential vertical flight trade group.

The USAF is embarking on an effort to broaden its industrial base by better partnering with commercial industry. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) recently started the Agility Prime programme that originally began as an effort to look at options to replace the Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor being used by the service's special operators but has broadened to investigate where commercial innovation is going in electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology.

Will Roper, assistant secretary of the USAF for acquisition, technology, and logistics (AT&L) said on 16 September that he is especially interested in this effort to better find options in logistics and, overall, how to make logistics more resilient in contested environments. Roper said he would consider a spectrum of options instead of committing to a new eVTOL aircraft or rotary wing platform and that he wanted a series of challenges presented to him that ranged from smaller vehicles to aircraft moving heavy logistics to, perhaps, a bigger system.

"It is a great opportunity to get our research lab and our acquisition professionals to not think about their requirement or their mission in just the defence industrial base, but to think about it in the United States industrial base," Roper told reporters at the Air Force Association's (AFA's) annual conference.

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