The U.S. Air Force’s innovation arm, AFWERX, is considering hardware and software efforts under the Project Fast Open X-Platform Agile Combat Employment (FOX-ACE) to pass targeting data from Lockheed Martin [LMT] Sniper pods and other sensors on future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
AFWERX is asking for industry submission of white papers on the topic.
“AFWERX and its strategic partners in the test enterprise are leading the effort to demonstrate ACE (Agile Combat Employment) capabilities and advanced mission systems integration on eVTOL aircraft through a cross-platform government reference architecture—a culmination of AFWERX Agility Prime strategic investment and other government-led agile combat capability initiatives,” AFWERX said.
Project FOX-ACE “leverages strategic program office relationships, 309 Software Engineering Group (SWEG) and ACC [Air Combat Command] Federal Laboratory partnerships, and cross platform joint service reciprocity to accelerate warfighter-driven combat capabilities,” per AFWERX. “The FOX-ACE project will rapidly integrate and deploy combat capabilities on relevant timelines and costs required to address the current and future threat environment. This effort will demonstrate the potential for rapid ”
The project is to culminate in an eVTOL demonstration by the 96th Operations Group at Eglin AFB, Fla. AFWERX said that Project FOX-ACE is to align with ongoing Project FOX testing on the F-35 and F-22 and “efforts with A-10, B-2, F-15E and other program offices.”
“Currently, potential image/video will be from Sniper pod or similar formats as well as other potential optical sensors,” AFWERX said in an Oct. 24 response to an industry question on what types of data—images, video, or other sensor feeds—electronic box designs should be able to handle for Project FOX-ACE. “We encourage any recommendations for both hardware and software solutions.”
Asked whether the box is detecting buildings, vehicles, people, or events, AFWERX replied that “vehicles and events will be of interest.”
In March, two U.S. Air Force pilots flew the ALIA, an eVTOL aircraft developed by BETA Technologies—an event that the Air Force said was the first time airmen had flown an electric aircraft with military airworthiness approval (Defense Daily, March 16).
BETA has partnered with the Air Force’s Agility Prime program since 2020 to develop and refine ALIA.
In May 2021, BETA became the first company to receive airworthiness approval from the Air Force for manned flight of an eVTOL aircraft.
The fully-electric ALIA was intended for cargo transportation, but it can seat up to five passengers in addition to a pilot. BETA’s team has been working toward a top speed of 150 knots and a range of 250 nautical miles.
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