The Liberty Lifter has been approved for a full-scale demonstrator, another of our favorites on Technovelgy's comprehensive DARPA Project List.
(Last year's DARPA video)
The Liberty Lifter X-plane project aims to deliver a long-range, low-cost X-plane using a wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) ekranoplan-like concept. Artwork released by DARPA shows that the Aurora Flight Sciences concept, which has not been seen before, resembles a more traditional flying boat. The concept features a single hull, high wing and eight turboprops for propulsion. It also looks somewhat similar to Boeing Phantom Works’ Pelican WIG concept from two decades ago.
Phase 1 of the project spans 18 months in total, DARPA’s press release notes, and focuses on defining the aircraft’s design and capabilities with a view to producing a full-scale demonstrator. The 18 months involve six months of conceptual design work, and a further nine months of design maturation. After this, a preliminary design review will be conducted, and, from there, a further three months will be devoted to manufacturing planning and test/demonstration planning reviews. According to General Atomics, an $8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee award has been given for the next six months as the base effort, with the award potentially growing to a total of $29 million if its design is ultimately chosen.
Finally! The aerospace industry is catching up with the grand designs of a century ago. Take a look at Ed Earl Repp using his imagination in Air Wonder Stories in 1929. Gasp in amazement at the air-freighter cargo plane from The Invisible Raiders!
At the tremendous speed that the Jupiter was turning up under the thrust of her twenty-four screws whirling on the shafts of twelve powerful motors, one would think that it were impossible for an object to remain long on her streamlined aerofoil surfaces without being hurled into space. But at the great altitude in which she was flying, the rarefied air did not to any perceptible degree hinder the sky raiders from landing their craft on the Jupiter’s broad wings.