Futuristic Military Transformers Technology Revealed by Texas Firms

Texas Combaticons Military TransformersThis is ‘Combaticons’ news after all, though it does not involve giant gestalt bot fights :). It’s like something out of a “Transformers” movie. Or perhaps “The Jetsons” — if you’re old enough to remember that space-age cartoon. The Pentagon office in charge of looking at futuristic technology has asked industry for ideas on whether it’s feasible to build a vehicle that can be driven — and flown. And a fledgling Fort Worth business, AVX Aircraft Co., says yeah, we can do that — if you give us the money to try.

AVX, a recent newcomer populated largely by former Bell Helicopter employees, responded to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency request for ideas for its Transformer program. AVX’s plans are for a four-person fly/drive vehicle that can go 250 miles on a single tank of fuel.

Envision a space-age version of the Willys jeep with a helicopter rotor for vertical takeoffs and landings and ducted fans for speedy forward flight. And most any soldier could drive or fly it. No pilot’s license would be needed.

AVX released a statement Monday with details of its proposal to the government and artist renderings of what the aerial vehicle would look like. This isn’t a giant Pentagon contract. At least not yet.

DARPA plans on spending about $9 million at first and $54 million eventually for contractors to do designs and studies, show that the technology works and build prototypes. The concept has evolved from the U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the biggest dangers faced by troops comes from hidden improvised explosive devices.

Presumably, the Pentagon thinks soldiers in such vehicles would be able to spot IEDs and fly over them. Of course, if they could spot them now they could avoid them. AVX President Troy Gaffey, a longtime engineer for Bell, was traveling Monday and unavailable for comment. The company’s concept draws on technology it has proposed to retool the Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters: a twin coaxial, or counter-rotating rotors, for vertical lift, and ducted fans for forward flight propulsion.