DARPA launches maritime heavy-lift aircraft project

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has spear a long-range heavy-lift marine aircraft project.

The Liberty Lifter project aims to integrate the heavy and high-speed airlift capabilities of today’s transport aircraft without the need to take off and land on a runway.

Offers operational flexibility

With no required runway and port facilities, the aircraft will be able to provide operational flexibility and faster transit time.

When issued its request for information for the aircraft last yearDARPA observed that current aircraft “require transit times of days to weeks and are dependent on ancillary facilities such as highly developed ports”, limiting their ability to support maritime operations.

“This first phase of the Liberty Lifter program will define the seaplane’s unique range, payloads and other parameters,” said the DARPA Tactical Technology Office program manager. Alexandre Walan mentioned.

“The innovative advancements envisioned by this new DARPA program will feature an X-plane demonstrator that provides warfighters with new capabilities during extended maritime operations.”

“Wing in the ground” effect aircraft

The low-cost aircraft will be built on the basis of Wing In Ground (WIG) effect vehicles such as the Soviet “ekranoplans” which glide over water or a surface by exploiting the aerodynamic thrust a craft generates when it is near a surface.

However, unlike the WIG aircraft, the X aircraft will be maneuverable and able to operate in choppy waters.

“The focus will be on operation in turbulent sea states by creating high lift capabilities at low speeds to reduce wave impact loading during take-off/landing, and innovative design solutions to absorb forces waves,” DARPA explained.

Additionally, the aircraft will avoid the risk of vehicle collision during “high-speed operation in congested environments.”