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Next generation of fighter planes on the horizon

  • June 4, 2024
  • 2 min read
Next generation of fighter planes on the horizon

American manufacturer Bell has been chosen as one of two companies for a programme to create a new class of aircraft. Phase 1B of DARPA’s Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) X-Plane program hopes to create a prototype High=Speed Vertical Take-off and Landing (HSVTOL) plane for the American military. The goal is to develop a class of aircraft that combine the hovering ability of a helicopter with the high-speed of a jet.

Bel Trexton announced on, 28th May, that it was given the go ahead to develop the concept for the SPRINT X-Plane, coming in  the wake of Aurora Flight Sciences unveiling a concept for the project.

Bell has made significant progress with its tilt rotor design. Earlier this year, it carried out ground track tests that demonstrated flight control systems and how the engines can be converted from rotor, allowing it to take off vertically, to forward for powerful jet propulsion. They can then fold back to reduce drag.

When fully developed, the Bell prototype is expected to manage cruising speeds of up to 450 knots (518 mph, 833 km/h), a range of 200 nm (230 miles, 370 km), and altitudes up to 30,000 ft (9,100 m). It will be able to carry 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) in a spacious compartment and hopes to be compatible with a wide variety of missions.

Today, HSVTOL is only possible among a few fighter planes including the Harrier ‘jump jet’ and the F-35B Lightning II. DARPA’s dream is to expand this to more versatile and survivable airframe, providing runway independence for missions including special forces and disaster relief in hard to reach areas.

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