Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Could flying pigs be far behind now?

The uber-geeks of DARPA, always willing to push the engineering envelope for both good and ridiculous reasons, have again come up with a project that seems to defy all commonsense. Not satisfied with the use of normal helicopter transportation to move troops and materials in combat zones some group of jokers apparently feel the need to develop a flying humvee.

DARPA is calling for the flying car, named Transformer, to have an airborne range of 250 miles and the ability to carry 1000 pound of cargo. Never fear people, despite the troubled financial times we live in with the United States government swimming in a massive ocean of deficit spending while fighting futile wars with billions disappearing daily the wise men and women of the Defense Department want the Transformer to be "at least somewhat green." This is accomplished with including an efficient diesel engine in the design.

The Transformer could, if made operational, take off and land vertically and have a maximum altitude ceiling of 10,000 feet. Totally cool, but we have been fielding helicopters like the ancient UH-1 that have been doing the same thing since Vietnam. Some how the phrase "reinventing the wheel comes to mind" with the only winners being the big military-industrial suits sitting in corner offices. But everything comes down to dollars and cents and what is the price tag for the development of these armored white elephants?

It’s a lofty plan, albeit one with a relatively small budget: Darpa’s allotting around $55 million to the development and testing of prototypes.            

"Relatively small?" Yeah, $55 million dollars are microscopic drops in the overall government bucket when it could be wasted on such projects like health care, education, and preparing the nation for the coming 2012 disasters of the zombie apocalypse and the margarita mix shortage. But following the adage of the great journalistic giants I am just reporting the facts and will let you decided the worthiness of this project. Because you must remember, opposing any military boondoggle immediately makes a person a commie, terrorists-loving, America hating, socialist.

How do you get a flying Humvee into the air — and keep it aloft for 250 nautical miles? A diesel engine, according to Darpa.
The Pentagon futurists are dead-set on creating a Humvee that flies. In September, it awarded a $3 million contract for its Transformer project to Maryland’s AAI Corporation to begin tests on its helicopter-airplane-truck hybrid. Yesterday the project took another step forward: California’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which makes engines for Air Force fighter jets and transport planes, got $1 million from Darpa to provide the beating heart of the Transformer.
According to a company statement, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne are going to model the Transformer engine on their EnduroCORE, a diesel engine that generates a “high power-to-weight ratio comparable to gas turbines.” It’ll need to. Darpa’s specifications for the flying Humvee require the Transformer to stay in the air carrying up to 1000 pounds for up to 250 miles without refueling. Diesel’s energy efficiency apparently satisfied Darpa’s suggestion that the Transformer be at least somewhat green.
They’ve got until 2015 to make it work, and this week looks to be when the Transformer team is starting in earnest. Tomorrow, the Los Angeles Times reports, Darpa will pull together Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, AAI and additional prime contractor Lockheed Martin for their first Transformer parley.

Lastly, just think how cool it will be when the rich people can buy their own commercial versions of the flying humvees and are zooming through the air above all the unwashed masses.   


Pixel Peeper said...

Less Humvee, more Prius, huh? Sometimes I wonder, since obviously I won't win the lotter, if I should just join them. You know, buy stock in Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne or something.

Did enjoy the Wagner music (I grew up less than an hour's drive from Bayreuth).

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Good point, heck I'd almost support the project if they would sell the vehicles to Domino's so I could get my pizza faster.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

A "green" flying humvee helicopter, double b? Just great. If they could only make it in black (you know, for the much more paranoid amongst us).

Marja said...

A flying humvee lol as long as it doesn't zoom through our skies. We like to keep it quiet here.

MRMacrum said...

Why don't they just tack on some mobile home wheels to a Huey and call it good? I hear they are pretty cheap.

Randal Graves said...

I sure hope the munitions are green.

Windsmoke. said...

It does seem a waste of money when you consider that helicopters have been doing the same job for many years.

Lowandslow said...

So glad to hear they've joined the Green movement. What's next?...screen doors on submarines?


Beach Bum said...

Will: LOL!!!
I'm sure flying black humvees will be seen by someone now, namely some guy named Bubba and his wife, and first cousin as they sit on the tailgate of their truck parked outside the trailer.

Marja: I like quiet and dark skies myself. Better to see the stars and hear nature. Of course humans like nothing better than to spoil anything they can.

Mike: Seriously! They could even add a ducted fan system to the old Huey model so they could get rid of the rotor. Then add some kevlar armor and the wheels you mentioned and they can have their flying car.

Truthfully, I am in no way an expert but this smells fake, allowing the DoD to funnel money to some black operation.

Randal: I'd suggest fertilizer bombs might go nicely with the flying humvee for that added "green" touch but Congress already makes more than enough shit. Like I wrote to Mike, this smells fake and a way to funnel money to some black operation.

Now since I wrote that if I suddenly disappear from the blogosphere or even "slip on the soap in the shower" you will know I hit a nerve at the Five Sided Funny Farm or Langley.

Windsmoke: Leave it to the United States Defense Department to spend billions to reinvent the wheel.

LowandSlow: LOL!!!
I posted something 12 to 18 months ago about DARPA looking into creating artifical and IMMORTAL organisms. I thought idea so crazy I worked a similar concept into my vampire storyline I write about sometimes. So a screen door submarine can't be that far off,

Infidel753 said...

Totally cool, but we have been fielding helicopters like the ancient UH-1 that have been doing the same thing since Vietnam.

Yeah, but if they just used ordinary helicopters they couldn't call them something cool like "Transformers" and fantasize about them turning into giant cartoon robots to stomp the enemy.

think how cool it will be when the rich people can buy their own commercial versions of the flying humvees and are zooming through the air above all the unwashed masses.

I've heard that private helicopters are already commonly owned by rich people in big cities in Brazil, so they can get around without having to deal with the traffic and high-crime areas.

Forget screen doors, the next project will probably be a submarine that can fly.

Ranch Chimp said...

Good Morning Bum!

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh ... I dont know what to think about any of this, I did find it entertaining though the way you incorporated the financial end into this ... I think there is more investment endeavor's these day's in defense too, along with mineral's raping. I noticed in this town ... Hummer sales skyrocketed when even gas price's did a few year's ago (Dallas has a high concentration of what were called Yuppie's, they have their own herd, and follow suit, a trendy crowd, and Hummer ownership was the pop thing, fully loaded though, of course) I heard alot of talk over the year's about "flying car's" and such ... I think it's funny at this point, because many people today cant even drive that well on road's with guide line's for lane's and sign's to tell them and warn them of everything to do (I'm an excellent driver by the way, if I was good at doing anything, it's behind the wheel, I even worked on my own car's for year's) ... but it's alot of fun thinking about how insane the skies would be. :)

Thanx Guy ....

Suzan said...

Let's see, first they send out the drones to make sure the neighborhood is "friendly" . . .

You know, of course, that they've spent billions with no accounting so it can't be that. My guess is that some bigwig just wants one, and with a willing and completely obesiant population . . . what can't the military do? (Anything it wants. Just watch.)

And private helicopters in Brazil, infidel? Check out NYC.

And Ranch Chimp? These jackals always jump in to suck the last drop of juice from any "fruit" that looks like it will soon be extirpated. After all, why should they let anyone else get the goods?

Love ya,


Yeah, but if they just used ordinary helicopters they couldn't call them something cool like "Transformers" and fantasize about them turning into giant cartoon robots to stomp the enemy.

think how cool it will be when the rich people can buy their own commercial versions of the flying humvees and are zooming through the air above all the unwashed masses.

I've heard that private helicopters are already commonly owned by rich people in big cities in Brazil

Liberality said...

I vote NO. Feed the poor and starve the military industrial complex is what I am thinking. If that makes me a socialist, so be it. I can think of worse names to be called.

Beach Bum said...

Infidel: A submarine that can fly! Dammit, you know that makes sense.

Ranch: That's why I included the "Ride of the Valkries" at the end. Imagine all the crazy yuppies not only dodging around but up and over each other to get to work and back home first. It will be totally insane.

Suzan: Got to love the military-Industrial complex.

Liberality: Yeah I agree, I honestly believe we will have to cut the defense budget if the politicians are honest about saving the country.

Ranch Chimp said...

Suzan: And that's exactly how they think.

Ranch Chimp said...

Bum: I was just admiring some of the beautiful looking art piece's in that video!

Chef Cthulhu said...

Look at the conditions stipulated in the article. Very high bar and very aggressive.

I wouldn't be surprised if DARPA expects this not to work as planned, but rather yield technologies, materials, etc. that can be used on other systems and elsewhere in industry.

Then again, I could be wrong. Just now thinking - a HUMVEE that flies at 10kft up to 250 miles can fly to where you need it be a HUMVEE and not have to worry about IED's along the way. SOOOOoooo, it could go the way of the MRAP - rapid design and procurement without the huge bidding process. And forcing someone to do it for only $55M keeps it inexpensive enough to go around the normal process in procuring a system that takes forever to develop.

$55 Mil? Sounds laissez-faire but so what? The money's probably been there in the annual defense authorization. It's 1/10,000 of the annual defense appropriation, even less when you figure in the extra money we print to fund the wars we're in. So if you're looking for cost savings, look somewhere else. You don't lose weight by clipping fingernails.

The real money to be taken out is on "The Hill". The $18B Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle for the Marines is more than 300 times the cost of DARPA's project. Gates wants to chop it. The House - ESPECIALLY the guys whose districts will build it - are starting to get cold feet. I guess they think we'll be landing on Iwo Jima again in the next few years.

Another point is personnel. $400K/year/person. Remember that manpower costs are the largest expenditure in big businesses and institutions, especially government. President says cut around 35K people from the armed forces. At $400k/yr per person, that's $14B right there. Again, 300 times the cost of the flying whatever.

The Military Industrial Complex has gotten out of hand. DARPA isn't the place to attack it though. They just don't get the budget slice. Congress and lobbyists - the ones who control the big bucks - are the right places.

Beach Bum said...

Ranch: It was a great video.

Chef: Don't get me wrong, I was making fun of the flying humvee concept but I know the DARPA guys and gals have many times been the kick to get some remarkable inventions and other concepts started.

The flying humvee first came to my attention in this month's issue of Popular Science. You probably have seen it already but for anyone who might not and is reading this the article deals with several bad ideas in science with a few that could actually bite us in the ass.

One is genetically altered mosquitoes being released in the wild to curb diseases and another one deals with people drilling a hole into a super-volcano to set up sensors to tell us when it might blow. The "experts" wrote that the drilling itself could cause the thing to blow by itself.

Now there was one other item they mentioned about DARPA in that Pop Science article, their research into artificial and immortal organisms.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I can just see Glenn Beck (who I often wonder, does the frigging guy even know how to shoot a gun?) trying to procure one of these babies......You simply cannot be too prepared for Armageddon (apparently).

TRUTH 101 said...

Think of it as health care for defense contractors and then the silliness of this thing isn't so bad.

Akelamalu said...

Not impossible methinks if you look at the first aeroplanes which don't look as though they would ever get off the ground. Actually you can see some of them in a recent post I did about our visit to RAF Hendon. You can see it here

Cloudia said...

where's my jet pack?

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral


lime said...

boy i am so relieved this is a priority, now we can concentrate on this instead of alleviating poverty, getting health care coverage, curing diseases...