DARPA issued the following solicitation (# DARPA-BAA-10-52) for a VTOL Roadable Air Vehicle on April 12, 2010. It calls for a 4-man (4 fully equipped personnel) troop carrier, with a maximum payload capacity of 1000 lbs, and a combat range of 250 nm on a single tank of fuel, with vertical take-off and landing capability. This gives the vehicle the ability to surpass IED threats and terrain limitations. On the road, the vehicle will have 4×4 capability and in the air, it will cruise at altitudes of up to 10,000 ft. The vehicle is to be less than 30 ft in length. The proposed fuel is JP-8, a jet fuel variant with additives that extend the usable temperature limits and storability, basically kerosene with additives.
The mission cycle for the TX available from the solicitation document is shown above. The Transformer TX project has a $54 million-3 phase budget allocation (a small budget for a defense program!!). The proposal due date was May 27, 2010. So don’t bother sending in any more proposals!!
The program wants to explore and develop new technologies including hybrid electric drive systems, advanced batteries, adaptive wing structures, advanced light weight engine systems, ducted tilt-rotor fans, advanced sensors, flight controls and lightweight materials. The solicitation demands ground and flight tests by the middle of the first quarter in 2015.
The Transformer TX will probably look nothing like the artists concept shown in the figure above. It probably will not be like a helicopter. Helicopter blades are prone to damage when tucked away as the vehicle is moving on the ground. The vehicle will probably have ducted fans so that the troops are not exposed to the rotating blades and also protects the blade from impact with other vehicles, trees, gunfire even. The ducts can be articulated for thrust vectoring.
AAI Corp (a Textron company) has received $3.05 million grant for Phase 1. Other members on AAI’s team, according to Aviation Week (date Sep. 28, 2010)are Bell Helicopter (also a Textron company), Textron Marine & Land Systems (another Textron company that makes light armoured vehicles), flying-car developer Terrafugia, and Cartercopters (a Wichita, TX based aerospace research and development company).
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has received a $1 million contract to supply the engines. P&W are fielding their EnduroCORE engine for the project. It is a Wankel rotary engine (similar to the Mazda RX engine) running on diesel and features a high power-to-weight ratio comparable to gas turbine engines, but are as efficient as diesel piston engines.
Here are a few links relating to this project.
An article from Composites World. It lists the 6 vendors selected by DARPA for the TX project.