The United States Air Force has big plans for the Hexa “flying car”, if recent and future tests are any judge.
The Hexa is an electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) wingless multicopter. It is developed by LIFT Aircraft, a Texas-based company. In May, the Air Force will start testing the “flying car” that was designed for the commercial market to be used in military missions, including rescuing troops, delivering cargo and conducting security checks over an airfield.
In late March, one of the flying cars was loaded on a HC-130J and was transported from Ohio to Texas. This was a test to prove that eVTOL aircraft fit to be transported by U.S. military cargo planes.
The initial test was with a single eVTOL, while a C-130H could carry up to four Hexa platforms, with newer C-130J models potentially able to transport five or six at a time.
The first eVTOL prototype was unveiled in February 2021, and the first production units were delivered to the US Air Force for testing and air-worthiness certification.
The Hexa isn’t exactly a flying car, it’s better described as a multi-rotor drone, which is considered an ultralight aircraft that doesn’t need a pilot’s license to fly.
Such eVTOL capable of landing without a runway could be used to ferry troops and supplies needed to stand up operations, while also providing a platform for crisis response. The Hexa will undergo tests for all of these.
Right now, Hexa’s abilities are limited and geared toward the commercial recreation market. The aircraft has room for one person and can fly for about 10-15 minutes and cover a range of 10-15 miles, depending on the payload. A person can learn to fly Hexa quickly because many of the flight systems are automated, but Lift plans to develop a fully automated version.
In the future, the platform could potentially serve as an armed overwatch aircraft to protect ground troops.
Even in its current, limited capability, the Hexa could be useful. While it can’t carry as much weight as required to satisfy certain logistics missions, it could transfer smaller cargo.
eVTOL platforms with quiet electric engines and simple sustainment footprints could become key to the Air Force as it figures out how to operate away from large airfields, a concept known as agile combat employment, or ACE.
There is already a big eVTOL market with multiple projects created in the USA, Germany, China, Russia. The Asia Pacific eVTOL aircraft market is projected to grow at the highest rate over the next ten years, primarily due to increased investments to develop urban air mobility.
In a war situation against China or Russia, it is likely that US bases in Europe would quickly be destroyed, for a while or permanently. In response, the US Air Force wants to be able to shift to a disaggregated style of fighting, where discrete packages of aircraft are temporarily deployed to smaller airfields across the globe that may not have large runways or established amenities.
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