The USAF’s Emerging Technologies Integrated Test Force (ET-ITF) took delivery of its first experimental electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft at Edwards AFB, California, on September 25.
Before the aircraft was delivered to Edwards, ET-ITF test pilots spent time at Joby Aviation Inc’s facility in Marina, California, to learn about the eVTOL aircraft and its systems. This promises to allow a smoother and quicker transition into developmental flight test operations at Edwards AFB, where test sorties were anticipated to begin immediately.
Designed, built and delivered by Joby, the aircraft will form part of the USAF’s AFWERX-led Agility Prime programme, which aims to leverage commercial offerings that have military applications and to invest in a range of emerging technologies that include advanced manufacturing, transformative vertical lift and increased autonomy. The experiment will look at a range of novel power generation sources, such as distributed electric propulsion and hybrid-electric, electric and hydrogen powerplants.
The ET-ITF forms part of the recently structured Airpower Foundations Combined Test Force and is the lead element tasked with testing and evaluating eVTOL technology for future defence applications, especially for the support of evolving Agile Combat Employment (ACE) doctrine. It will work with a team from Joby as part of a collaboration between the USAF and private industry. The initiative also involves AFWERX, the 412th Test Wing and NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. The ET-ITF will conduct both manned and remotely piloted operations.
Col Elliot Leigh, Director of AFWERX, said that the Agility Prime programme existed because the USAF recognised the potential in vehicles like Joby’s eVTOL aircraft. “There’s a transformative vertical lift industry that’s emerging and we need to be partners in it,” he said.