‘Solely for planning purposes’

Oleg Burunov

In October, the US Department of Defense issued a request for information (RFI) to assess how a new electric aircraft might be deployed for military operations. The Pentagon said that the RFI, which is “solely for planning purposes,” aims “to better understand the current cost benefit” of the plane.
The Pentagon continues to move toward rolling out its first-ever electric plane amid a technological war with China, a US media outlet has reported.
According to the outlet, the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI currently has an estimated 74% global market share, and the US Department of Defense (DoD) is concerned about a possible scenario where its drones become “a tool for Chinese espionage in US skies.”
The outlet noted that the US Air Force (USAF)’s Agility Prime program has pumped more than $100 million into the battery-powered aircraft known as “electric vertical takeoff and landing” (eVTOL) vehicles since 2020.
With a number of US co-mpanies developing eVT-OLs for civilian use as air taxis and transport planes, the Pentagon reportedly plans to use electric planes in utility roles to ferry people and cargo far from airstrips at a lower cost than conventional helicopters.
“Because they’re quiet, they may also be useful to slip troops behind enemy lines and to conduct rescue operations,” the US media outlet argued, referring to Will Roper, who launched the Agility Prime program when he served as the USAF’s procurement chief under the Trump administration.
The outlet cited Roper as saying that the USAF’s “involvement attests that these are real airplanes — not toys, not flying cars.”
He added that shifting to the procurement of the electric aircraft would be-come “a big milestone” in the US Department of De-fense as several companies participating in the Agility Prime program believe that the military will start acquiring eVTOLs in 2024.
“The bigger impact of Agility Prime is that this is an emerging market that’s likely going to be worth a lot in terms of its value, in terms of jobs created, in terms of global impact. It will be a market with a US ZIP code,” Roper claimed.
He spoke a few months after US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan unveiled the country’s new national security strategy, saying that the document views China as the “most consequential geopolitical challenge” to America.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin earlier said that Beijing calls on Washington to stop spreading the outdated theory of the Chinese threat and better engage in building a new concept of mutually beneficial cooperation.