A first-of-its-kind flying car is now airborne, thanks to the Air Force Research Laboratory and industry innovation, potentially ushering in a new era in multi-domain combat attack operations.
The first car, called eVTOL for Electric Vertical Take-Off and Flight, may be but a beginning. It is a small cab with extended legs or wheels with what looks like a circular pattern of small drone propellers clearly intended to enable a “hover” capability.
Should this effort be met with continued success, there may be no reason why Humvees or even armored vehicles could one day quickly become airborne to climb mountains, attack enemy supplies and seek to overwhelm forces behind the initial breach area. This brings multi-domain options and could easily extend the reach and scope of attack operations.
Forward operating bases full of troops, combat platforms and command and control headquarters might be far enough removed from the front battle lines to be at risk from a ground attack. If so, this kind of scenario would enable a flying attack vehicle to fly into position for an immediate surprise strike.
Perhaps a flying car could circumvent or simply bypass barriers, ditches or other kinds of defensive enemy fortifications? Maybe it could reach otherwise heavily defended troop concentrations?
What if an armed tactical vehicle is driving toward an enemy fortification, when forces encounter armed armored vehicles and rigorous terrain? What if, in order to avoid those vehicles, a combat vehicle quickly becomes airborne, finding cover behind a nearby mountain? Maybe an armed flying car could, in this fashion, be used for clandestine hit and run attacks?
A vehicle such as this could certainly let combat operations use a lighter, smaller footprint, therefore presenting fewer targets to an enemy. Without the risk of having armed air support operate simultaneously with advancing ground forces, attack operations could achieve multi-domain efficacy in a single platform.
The Air Force effort, called Agility Prime, plans to field a flying car by 2023, according to a service report.
“Exactly 112 years after the Wright Brothers delivered their first military aircraft, top Air Force leaders gathered with their Texas National Guard hosts and AFWERX personnel to watch the first Agility Prime ORB flight demonstration,” the Air Force report said.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.