This New Ground Effect Cargo Plane By DARPA Will Be Able To Carry More Than 100 Tons

With the development of its revolutionary Liberty Lifter, a seaborne military heavy-lift vehicle capable of carrying an astounding 100 tons of cargo, Aurora Flight Sciences is creating waves in the aviation sector. Developed in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), this ground-breaking X-plane achieves effective bulk lift through the use of wing-in-ground effect technology.

DARPA launched the Liberty Lifter project in 2022 with the goal of building a seaplane that can carry as much cargo as a C-17 Globemaster III transport plane at a reasonable cost. Furthermore, the Liberty Lifter offers a flexible option for military logistics and operations with its remarkable ferry range of 6,500 nautical miles.

At this point in the development cycle, Aurora Flight Sciences is giving risk reduction top priority during the preliminary design Phase 1B. The company is leveraging innovative materials to construct full-scale components, including fuselage sections, at a reduced cost through the use of low-cost manufacturing techniques. Thorough testing is conducted on these parts prior to final assembly, guaranteeing the Liberty Lifter’s dependability and functionality.

The X-plane uses the wing-in-ground effect, flying low to take advantage of the air trapped between the wings and the sea surface for increased lift; the issue is in modifying it to withstand rough waves. In order to solve this, Aurora has been testing the water at Virginia Tech’s tow tank and creating sensors that can anticipate and identify surface waves. This will allow the Liberty Lifter to operate safely in inclement weather.

Recent modifications to the Liberty Lifter include a transition from a t-tail to a pi-tail design, utilizing a fork-shaped rudder to support stabilizers. This adjustment facilitates the incorporation of an aft cargo door while enhancing the airframe’s structural efficiency. Additionally, relocating the floats from the side-sponsons to the wingtips improves performance without escalating costs.

Scheduled for completion in the near future, Phase 1B sets the stage for the Liberty Lifter’s first flight, anticipated in 2028. Aurora Flight Sciences’ commitment to innovation and risk mitigation positions the Liberty Lifter as a game-changing asset in the realm of heavy-lift military transport.

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