U.S. Air Force Launches Agility Prime Program

The U.S. Air Force and its partners pushed forward with the kickoff of the Agility Prime program this week despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Agility Prime program is seeking to operationalize commercial electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles (i.e., “flying cars”) for military missions, and accelerate the emerging commercial eVTOL market in the United States. The program also aims to bring together industry, investor, and government communities to establish safety and security standards while accelerating the commercialization of this revolutionary technology.

The objective of the week’s events was to reinforce the Air Force’s commitment in partnering with industry, investors and the interagency to help ensure there is a robust domestic capability in the aerospace sector.

“Despite COVID-19, we’re still very optimistic about the future, specifically around flying cars and how they might help the military and the world produce better logistics, better medical support and better disaster relief,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “We really want to be engaged in this emerging market in a very different way.”

Joby Aviation S4
Joby Aviation S4 electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, a possible contender for the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime “Flying Car” program. Photo Credit: Joby Aviation.

With a projection as early as 2023, Roper explained that Agility Prime is focused on the strong demand from the military mission on the emerging market and making it clear to investors, regulators and innovators in the tech space that the military wants to start purchasing these innovative vehicles for military missions as soon as they can.

There’s an opportunity to find new uses of technology and explore new markets, said Col. Nathan Diller, Agility Prime team lead.

“Particularly in those public use cases where you might actually find a crisis like we’re in right now,“ he said. “There’s a huge amount of utility in having vehicles like this and being able to do it in a way that energizes the industrial base in this new sector of our aeronautics while reducing the overall burden on the taxpayer.”

Although the Agility Prime kickoff was primarily focused on the development of innovative ideas, Roper sees the benefit being far greater in the future.

“I’m very passionate about finding a model where the government can work with commercial innovators in a way that maintains the dynamic innovation markets,” Roper said. “This will finally bring the full power of this nation, which is this commercial innovators and the stability of government together in a way that’s beneficial.”

Agility Prime, in an endeavor to create alternative defense acquisition constructs, will rely on strong collaboration between Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Mobility PEO, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC), and Air Force Ventures.

Technology Development and evaluation experts at AFRL will partner from the onset with AFLCMC PEO Mobility and AFWIC to efficiently transition platforms and field capability to the warfighter. Air Force Ventures will be the critical link for engagement with industry, investors, and interagency organizations.

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