US Air Force Awards Electra $85 Million to Develop eSTOL Aircraft

The Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) award secures an investment partnership that funds the rapid development, test, and evaluation of a full-scale pre-production prototype eSTOL aircraft By Joseph Macey / 02 Feb 2023
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Electra has announced its selection by the US Air Force AFWERX innovation arm for a Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) award that secures up to $85 million between private investments, government funding, and matching Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding for development of a full-scale pre-production prototype electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft.

The STRATFI award secures investment that will fund the rapid development, test, and evaluation of a full-scale pre-production prototype eSTOL aircraft which can be used by the Air Force to validate requirements and operational use cases.

It will also leverage Electra’s upcoming flight test of a two-seat piloted eSTOL technology demonstrator aircraft, and substantially accelerates the transition path for Electra’s commercial nine-passenger eSTOL product aircraft to Air Force missions of interest.

According to Electra, the effort builds directly from its six active USAF SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II and Phase III contracts which have matured each of the core aspects of eSTOL technology – distributed electric propulsion, blown lift aerodynamics and acoustics, precision flight controls, and hybrid-electric powertrains.

Under the STRATFI contract, Electra will further strengthen its partnership with the AFWERX Agility Prime program, chartered with expanding technology transition paths to accelerate emerging dual-use markets by leveraging government resources for rapid and affordable fielding, while bolstering U.S. tech advantage.

John S. Langford, Founder and CEO of Electra, said: “This STRATFI award reinforces the Air Force’s commitment to dual-use eSTOL technology as a solution for national security and other government missions, and validates Electra’s aircraft design and engineering work to date. The cost and risk advantages of eSTOL technology also make it a smart investment. We are honored to be chosen for this significant award and look forward to continuing our close collaboration with the Agility Prime team.”

Ben Marchionna, Electra’s Director of Technology and Business Development, commented: “There is a significant gap in the Joint Force to provide logistics and sustainment to widely dispersed units across large contested geographical areas at the tactical edge. Electra’s eSTOL is ideally suited to serve as a small highly fuel-efficient airlifter that helps the Air Force execute its Agile Combat Employment doctrine and meet its operational energy goals to reduce aviation carbon emissions. Small, affordable, runway-independent eSTOL aircraft could also alleviate demand on larger, few-in-number, high performance fixed wing and rotorcraft platforms in a contested logistics environment. Our team is thrilled to help the Air Force solve this key national security priority.”

Lieutenant Colonel John “Wasp” Tekell, Air Force Agility Prime Lead, added: “It’s vital that we ensure new advanced air mobility technologies with dual-use applications are developed and manufactured here at home in the US. Electra’s eSTOL technology has the potential to deliver valuable logistics and mobility capabilities to the Air Force. We value our partnership with Electra and look forward to supporting their continued development and future transition.”

Electra’s eSTOL is thought to represent a new class of aircraft, characterized by helicopter-like operational flexibility with performance and operating costs better than comparable fixed-wing aircraft. The eSTOL aircraft can operate in environments ranging from busy urban areas to remote landing strips, and fly missions including on-demand urban and regional air mobility, cargo logistics, executive transport, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and more. 

According to Electra, the company has received over 1,000 eSTOL aircraft orders from commercial customers around the globe aiming to lower operating costs, access new markets through smaller ground footprints and lower noise profiles, and meet both customer and investor expectations for reduced carbon emissions.

Posted by Joseph Macey Connect & Contact
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