Transonic Lift Concept in the Works

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I noticed the following contract announcement this morning when I read the DoD's daily roundup:

Boeing Co., of Huntington Beach, Calif., is being awarded a firm fixed price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for $7,521,000. The Speed Agile Concept Demonstration program seeks to achieve a technology readiness level of at least five 2010 on an integrated mobility configuration in the areas of high lift, efficient transonic flight, and flight control, in order to support future technology development and acquisition activities. At this time $800,000 has been obligated. Department of the Air Force, 84 CSW, 518CBSS/PK, Hill AFB, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8212-08-C-0006).

Sounds interesting enough. "Speed Agile" concept demonstrator? So, I scanned around for some more info. Looks like back in August the Air Force published a solicitation for a concept demonstrator for a new generation of lifters that can operate with capabilities somewhere in between the C-130 and the C-17. Could this be the FCS Lifter?

The Speed Agile Concept Demonstrator, or SACD (I bet the Hill staffers love that acronym), will be able to take off in less than 2,000 feet [EDITOR: corrected], carry 65,000 pounds of gear or troops and fly around 1,500 nm unrefueled. This is what the Air Force is thinking about for a standard mission, and they're asking for a cruise speed of greater than .8mach at more than 30,000 feet, which means the aircraft will have to be pressurized.

The Air Force also wants the plane to be able to perform a special operations mission, carrying 20,000 lbs about 1,000 nm with a specialized flight profile that performs a 250 nm "low ingress cruise" and a similar egress cruise at "best range mach, best range altitude." The specs are intended to provide a plane that can "maximize radius and minimize mission execution time for given payload and mid-mission field length," according to an Air Force solicitation document.

The plane will have to be able to handle seven standard-sized pallets, with one on the ramp. The cargo bay dimensions would be an objective of 158" wide at the bottom of the loading bay, where the C-130 checks out at about 123" at its widest point.

This is just a "concept" and the Air Force is careful to point out:

The mission profiles and performance goals provided are only intended to provide a basis for the physical scaling of concepts and are not official USAF requirements. They are intended to represent an amalgam of various physical capabilities that are of interest, and a common point of departure for comparison/parametric sensitivities to assess the robustness of integrated mobility vehicle concepts.

Well, we'll keep an eye on this and see what comes out of it. But, clearly, Boeing's getting a pretty hefty chunk of change to put this SACD together.

-- Christian

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