DARPA Launches SPRINT Competition With Four Contenders


Under the auspices of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), four companies are now designing prototypes of an experimental vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) military aircraft. As reported today (Dec. 28) in Defense News, the contestants’ final design, prototyping, building and demonstration of the vehicles is expected by early 2027 as part of the Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) program.

Contenders for leadership in the competition include Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, Bell Textron, Northrop Grumman and Piasecki Aircraft. All are working under secured contracts covering the program’s first six months’ “conceptual design phase.” That will be followed by DARPA winnowing down the candidates for the next 12- to 15-month segment involving preliminary design.

DARPA’s required performance specifications include airspeeds of 400 to 450 knots and the mission capability of supporting mobility and logistics operations, medical transport, personnel recovery and evacuation.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Well stated! This is the way that government operates, and that is why we wind up with inferior designs and products!

    • They didn’t always operate that way. The YF-12/SR-71 did everything and more of what it was designed to do. Then unknowledgeable, self preserving bureaucrats piled in and it has been all downhill since then.

  2. I have to ask, what’s with the “stealth” and blended wing, and internal engines if the mission is basically that of a faster helicopter?