To make this website work, we log user data. By using Shephard's online services, you agree to our Privacy Policy, including cookie policy.

Open menu Search

Bell Textron and Boeing’s Aurora selected for next phase of DARPA’s X-Plane

29th May 2024 - 16:16 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London


Aurora’s X-Plane has been selected for the next phase of DARPA’s SPRINT programme. (Image: Aurora Flight Sciences)

The Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) project, a joint DARPA/US Special Operations Command effort to design, build and fly an X-plane, will attempt to demonstrate the key technologies and integrated concepts that enable a transformational combination of aircraft speed and runway independence.

The US DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected Bell Textron and Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences for Phase 1B of the agency’s SPRINT X-Plane programme.

Bell completed risk reduction testing at Holloman Air Force Base in late 2023, showcasing folding rotor, integrated propulsion and flight control technologies. Bell has been building on its investment in High-Speed Vertical Takeoff and Landing (HSVTOL) technology and past X-plane experience to inform the X-plane development for this programme.

Aurora’s concept is a low-drag, fan-in-wing demonstrator that integrates a blended wing-body platform, combining the agility of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) with a cruise speed of 450kt.

Recent images of Aurora’s design show the fan-in-wing (FIW) demonstrator with three lift fans, an improved composite exterior and an uncrewed cockpit. The choice of three lift fans has formed part of an effort to simplify the demonstrator and streamline its path to flight test. The platform, however, could be scaled to add more fans for future requirements.

Bell Textron's offering underwent testing at Holloman Air Force Base in late 2023. (Image: Bell Textron)

It will be expected that completion of preliminary design review for the SPRINT programme will occur within approximately 12 months with the goal of first flight in 36 months.

The SPRINT X-plane has been intended to be a proof-of-concept technology demonstrator with its flight test programme seeking to validate enabling technologies and integrated concepts that can be scaled to different size military aircraft.

The goal of the programme has been to provide such aircraft with the ability to cruise at speeds from 400-450kt at relevant altitudes and hover in austere environments from unprepared surfaces.

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

As part of our promise to deliver comprehensive coverage to Premium News and Defence Insight …

Read full bio

Share to