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New, Low-Cost Air Force ISR Drone Prototype Flies 2.5 Days

WASHINGTON: While other commercial and military drones have flown longer, the two and a half day flight of the Air Force?s latest unmanned aircraft prototype this week does represent a kind of breakthrough for the US military: proving that commercial technology can be adapted to build affordable long-endurance and highly capable surveillance drones.

And the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Dayton, Ohio is convinced that the new, autonomous Ultra-Long Endurance Aircraft Platform (Ultra LEAP) will be able to stay in the sky for longer in future flight tests.

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Shot Down? The USAF Now Wants To Air-Drop An Air Taxi To Fly You Out To Safety

In the midst of a future conflict, an American fighter jet is shot down while operating over hostile territory. The terrain is too complicated and risks are too great to send in a traditional combat search and rescue team, so U.S. commanders turn to a novel option: air-drop a small, ultra-quiet autonomous air vehicle with short or vertical take-off and landing capabilities near the crash site so the downed aviator can fly to safety.

Though it may sound like a scene straight out of a sci-fi war movie set in the near future, this is a concept the U.S. Air Force wants to actively explore. The Air Force Research Laboratory first posted the request for proposals for what they blandly described as a “Personnel Recovery / Transport Vehicle” on the U.S. military’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program website on May 2, 2019.

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Air Force introduces hypersonic flight research vehicle

The Air Force has officially named the hypersonic flight research vehicle it is testing.

The vehicle, dubbed X-60A, is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc., under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory?s Aerospace Systems Directorate and High Speed Systems Division.

X-60A is an air-dropped liquid rocket, purpose-built for hypersonic flight research. This is the first Air Force Small Business Innovative Research program to receive an experimental ?X? designation, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base?s public affairs office announced in a press release Thursday.

AirForceTimes.com