Air Force preparing electric vehicles for agile operations in austere environments

By Sara Sirota / April 2, 2021 at 4:13 PM

The Air Force is preparing Agility Prime electric vertical takeoff-and-landing vehicles for use in austere environments and recently proved one can fly inside an HC-130J transport aircraft ahead of an upcoming military exercise.

A LIFT Aircraft-built eVTOL flew inside an HC-130J for the first time from Springfield, OH, to Austin, TX, in late March, according to a notice the Air Force released earlier this week. Service and company personnel had to reconfigure the vehicle so it would fit inside the transport aircraft and loaded it in within 40 minutes.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joseph Wruck with the 571th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron said he believes that time can be reduced to 15 minutes, according to the release. LIFT is also working to ensure the eVTOL can depart the HC-130J and be ready to fly in under two hours, according to Jace McGown, the company’s chief pilot.

These efforts help prove the vehicle’s utility for the Air Force’s agile combat employment (ACE) concept, which seeks capabilities with small logistical footprints for rapid operations in austere environments. The service is particularly interested in using eVTOLs for personnel recovery missions, the notice states.

AFWERX, an Air Force unit engaging innovative technology companies that oversees Agility Prime, will soon have the opportunity to evaluate these new vehicles in a military exercise for the first time. The program is set to bring eVTOLs to the next iteration of the 355th Wing’s Bushwhacker exercise this summer. These events specifically test ACE concepts.

In addition to personnel recovery, the 355th Wing is interested in exploring the eVTOL’s utility for resupply and other more in-depth future use cases, which will enhance “forward adaptive basing concepts by pushing capabilities closer to the fight,” according to the release.

“By doing this, we are furthering the rescue and attack capabilities as we look toward the future, because these are the next generation of flying platforms,” Air Force Maj. Brendan Gallagher, chief of weapons and tactics with the 563rd Rescue Group, said.