The US Air Force AFWERX innovation arm has awarded Electra a contract to develop an electronic short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft prototype.
The full-scale pre-production eSTOL prototype will be constructed to validate operational use cases and associated requirements for the service.
It will be equipped with improved precision flight controls, aerodynamics, acoustics, hybrid-electric powertrains, and distributed electric propulsion resulting from previous AFWERX Agility Prime program contracts in 2021 and 2022.
“Electra’s eSTOL is ideally suited to serve as a small highly fuel-efficient airlifter that helps the Air Force execute its Agile Combat Employment doctrine and meet its operational energy goals to reduce aviation carbon emissions,” Electra Technology and Business Development Director Ben Marchionna stated.
“Small, affordable, runway-independent eSTOL aircraft could also alleviate demand on larger, few-in-number, high performance fixed wing and rotorcraft platforms in a contested logistics environment. Our team is thrilled to help the Air Force solve this key national security priority.”
The prototype will leverage the capabilities of Electra’s two-seat, piloted eSTOL demonstrator and the company’s nine-passenger commercial eSTOL aircraft to support various US Air Force missions.
“It’s vital that we ensure new advanced air mobility technologies with dual-use applications are developed and manufactured here at home in the US,” AFWERX Agility Prime Program Lead Lt. Col. John Tekell said.
“Electra’s eSTOL technology has the potential to deliver valuable logistics and mobility capabilities to the Air Force. We value our partnership with Electra and look forward to supporting their continued development and future transition.”
Investing in eSTOL Technology
The eSTOL prototype agreement was awarded under AFWERX’s Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI), which allocated up to $85 million for the program.
STRATFI involves funding from government, private, and small business innovation research investments for quick and affordable fielding of next-generation US Air Force assets.
“This STRATFI award reinforces the Air Force’s commitment to dual-use eSTOL technology as a solution for national security and other government missions, and validates Electra’s aircraft design and engineering work to date,” Electra Founder and CEO John Langford stated.
“The cost and risk advantages of eSTOL technology also make it a smart investment. We are honored to be chosen for this significant award and look forward to continuing our close collaboration with the Agility Prime team.”