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.