Pilots don’t always land on runways. Whether shot down, or ejecting due to mechanical failure, a pilot can have multiple different types of bad days. Because of this, the Air Force has teams on helicopters ready to fly out, find the downed pilot, and make sure their bad day isn’t their last day. Presently this is done by helicopters, but the Air Force is exploring newer, faster, longer range vehicles that can do the same job.
AFWERX, a military technology accelerator by the Air Force and United States Special Operations Command, recently held a competition to find a better kind of high-speed vertical takeoff vehicle. This contest, announced in February 2021, seeks to find faster alternatives to the existing HH-60 Pave Hawk used by the Air Force. That helicopter is used for missions like recovering the wounded or rescuing pilots, but as a helicopter its speed is limited, topping out around 184 mph.
Specifically, AFWERX framed the initiative as looking for ideas…