The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command have selected JetPack Aviation’s Speeder VTOL vehicle to take part in the High Speed VTOL (HSVTOL) Concept Challenge organized by the USAF’s Afwerx unit to evaluate options for possible military applications. The Afrwerx team is evaluating 35 vehicles selected from 218 initial entries, and the short-listed aircraft also include a vehicle being developed by Jetoptera in partnership with Northrop Grumman.
Several HSTVOL showcase events are being held this month. These involve briefings to USAF and special missions personnel as to how each VTOL solution might meet their needs.
According to California-based JetPack, the mission profiles being considered include getting special forces troops in and out of combat zones, evacuating military personnel, aeromedical support, and tactical mobility. It claims that its Speeder vehicle is well suited to these missions, with its gimballed turbojet engines expected to deliver speeds of almost 300 mph. The company believes that by not having rotors, ducted fans, or propellers, the aircraft will have fewer ground infrastructure needs.
Companies selected from the HSVTOL Concept Challenge process could receive Pentagon funding to conducted further research and development work. “The USAF and USSOCOM are seeking ground-breaking ideas that will further strengthen operational effectiveness and efficiency in contested, resource-constrained, and runway-dependent settings,” said Reid Melville, chief innovation officer with the Air Force Research Laboratory, when launching the challenge in May.
JetPack Aviation recently completed flight trials with its first Speeder prototype. It expects to start testing a second full-scale prototype during the third and fourth quarters of this year. A third prototype—featuring a fully-formed fuselage, field-removable wings, and forward canards—should begin flight testing in the first half of 2022.