Pratt & Whitney’s Rocketdyne division, located in Canoga Park, CA, and a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, announced on Tuesday, October 19, an award of $1 million from the Pentagon to develop the power plant for a flying Humvee.
Humvee stands for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle.
The hybrid aircraft and road vehicle is called the Transformer. According to the Pentagon, it will be an ideal counter measure to ground based Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and “combine the advantages of ground vehicles and helicopters into a single vehicle equipped with flexibility of movement.” Another advantage is that it can be used as drone aircraft, without pilot to add to war casualties or get in harms way.
The flyable and roadable vehicle can also carry up to four persons, with greatly advanced mobility. It’s Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) capability make it possible to avoid threats and obstacles. The Marines, Air Force and special forces have stated an interest in it.
Specifications call for the Transformer to carry up 1,000 pounds, and have an operational range of 287 miles, quite advanced over the ground version of the military’s Humvee, which only gets 14 miles per gallon of fuel. The flying vehicle would have folding, retractable wings, and helicopter like rotor blades.
According to Scott Claflin, director of Power Innovations at Rocketdyne, “We’re excited to work on the program. There has never been an engine built like this before.”
Previously, the company had developed rocket engines for NASA space launches that carried astronauts into orbit.
The government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is directing the project. DARPA has been behind many Defense Department innovations, not all of which have been successful, including trying to develop telpathic spies and robotic jungle elephants. The have a wealth of funding and very imaginative brain power to assist them, along with the luxury of operating in complete secrecy.
There is no word on the estimated cost of each vehicle. Five other companies are working on the Transformer program in its 12-month, $9 million development phase. AAI Corporation of Hunt Valley, Maryland, and Lockheed Martin Corporation of Bethesda, MD, America’s largest defense firm, are listed as the program’s prime contractors. AVX Corporation, based in Myrtle Beach, SC, a division Kyocera Electronics Corporation, is also working on the project.
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