DARPA Wants 400-Knot VTOL

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Sikorsky and Aurora Flight Sciences have been awarded the first two development contracts in an effort by the Air Force's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a hybrid aircraft that can hover but also reach a top speed of up to 400 knots. The VTOL X-Plane project gave Sikorsky $14.4 million and Aurora $14 million of its $47 million Phase One budget, which means other competitors may enter the race.

DARPA has allotted a total of $130 million for development of a flying version of the aircraft. It will ultimately pick a winner from the Phase One competitors and proceed to construction and flight testing over the next four years. Sikorsky has teamed up with Lockheed Skunkworks for its effort and has some experience pushing the envelope for helicopters with its X2 concept aircraft.