Air Force Goes Low And Slow With XCub (Corrected)


The Air Force’s latest test aircraft is probably the slowest in the fleet but that’s the whole point. A CubCrafters XCub has been delivered to the Air Force Research Laboratory in Maryland where the aircraft, an updated version of an 83-year-old design, will be fitted with a state-of-the-art helmet and sensor system for “personnel recovery and other ‘featherweight airlift’ special missions,” the Air Force said in a release earlier this week. The XCub will be the first aircraft outfitted with the Low Altitude Sensing Helmet System (LASH). It’s owned by the prime contractor for the project, Sage Technologies, according to Sage’s Program Manager Ofir Shavit. It’s part of a larger effort called Project Lysander to create a system for recovering people from isolated locations, sometimes in the heat of battle. Lysanders were high-wing piston aircraft used in the Second World War to insert and extract British spies behind enemy lines using fields and country roads for runways.

“The Air Force’s CODE (Combat Operations in Denied Environment) program determined that these types of missions could not be executed effectively by the large aircraft that we have been using over the last 20 years in areas where we have air dominance,” said Dr. Darrel G. Hoppers, who is heading up the project for the 711th Human Performance Wing. “Project Lysander was conceived as a method of rescuing isolated personnel in both heavily defended and undefended airspace.” The XCub was chosen for its remarkable performance, notably its STOL capabilities and low-speed, low-altitude characteristics. The sensor package is designed to be quickly installed on any GA aircraft so the correct platform can be chosen for the circumstances. After the helmet system testing is done, the Air Force lab will hang on to the XCub for future projects.

An earlier version of this story suggested the Air Force owns the XCub but Ofir Shavit, program manager for Sage Technologies, the prime contractor on the project, told AVweb the aircraft is owned by his company.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Quieter, potentially much quieter, than any powered-lift vehicle, and appropriate for the mission. But so much for the military’s “all aircraft shall run on the same fuel” edict.

  2. Well, why couldn’t the smallest Allison 250 turboprop engine be used?

    The mission wants thrust anyway to get high fast.

  3. Using different fuel is not an issue. The aircraft clearly cannot make it to any theater of operations under its own power. The same C-17 that carries them to the front could just as well carry a small fuel truck or trailer with avgas.

    The M-149 Water Buffalo trailer can carry 400 gallons.

    And even with the non-standard fuel, that’s not much of a logistical impact. The fuel burn rate for the recip is going to be far less than any other Air Force asset beyond the Academy’s gliders.

    A low sound signature is going to be vital; on that alone, I don’t think a turbine is suitable. There’s a lot that can be done to reduce the noise from a recip. Don’t have to go to YO-3 extremes, even something like a Swiss muffler would be an improvement.