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Navy Unveils Plans For Massive Sea Plane

Navy Unveils Plans For Massive Sea Plane

Modern Military
A conceptual Wing-in-Ground Effect seaplane design taken from DARPA’s website. This seaplane concept will carry one USMC Amphibious Combat Vehicle inside each fuselage to fulfill the DARPA airlift requirement. Graphic: DARPA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has chosen two companies, General Atomics and Aurora Flight Sciences (a subsidiary of Boeing); moreover, to design and potentially build an experimental seaplane capable of transporting large amounts of cargo on the water. The project, named the Liberty Lifter Seaplane Wing-in-Ground Effect, will involve competition between the two companies to design their own versions of the super cargo flyer. DARPA will then select their preferred design concept.

DARPA is demanding a long-range, low-cost aircraft that is approximately the same size as the C-17 Globemaster III, a military transport aircraft capable of carrying a variety of cargo, including troops, vehicles, equipment, and supplies. The C-17 has a maximum payload capacity of around 170,900 pounds (77,519 kilograms) and is ideal for a wide range of military operations.

The Liberty Lifter seaplane must meet the high standards set by DARPA. Firstly, the seaplane must be able to operate in conditions that challenge the Navy’s surface operations. The Navy’s small boats are restricted to Sea State 3 and below, which refers to a moderate sea with waves between 1 and 2 meters high. The Liberty Lifter must be able to operate in Sea State 5, which is characterized by waves with a significant height of 4 to 6 meters and relatively long intervals between the waves.

This is crucial as Sea State 5 marks the point when conditions begin to threaten the Navy’s ability to carry out resupply missions at sea.
General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Liberty Lifter concept

According to DARPA’s program manager for the Liberty Lifter program; Christopher Kent, the two companies have taken distinct design approaches that will enable DARPA to explore a large design space during the first phase of the project. DARPA is looking forward to working closely with both companies as they mature their design concepts.

Aurora Flight Sciences Liberty Lifter concept

Kent said; “We are excited to kick off this program and looking forward to working closely with both performer teams as they mature their point-of-departure design concepts through Phase 1…The two teams have taken distinctly different design approaches; that will enable us to explore a relatively large design space during Phase 1.”

Many people are already calling this the “Navy’s Spruce Goose”!

As a tribute to the late aviation pioneer Howard Hughes’ gigantic floating wooden cargo plane built for the military that flew only once.

H-4 Hercules 2.jpg
H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose”

The Spruce Goose became a nickname for the Hughes H-4 Hercules. Designed to be the largest flying boat ever built, with a wingspan of 320 feet (97.5 meters). The plane was made mostly of birch and spruce, which led to its nickname “Spruce Goose.”

Built during World War II, as a response to the urgent need for a large-capacity cargo planes. Moreover, ones that could carry troops and supplies across the Atlantic Ocean. However, the war ended before the Hercules could enter service, and the project was plagued by cost overruns and delays. In 1947, Hughes took the Spruce Goose on its only flight, which lasted just a few minutes. Lastly, the plane became stored in a giant hangar in Long Beach, California, where it remained for several decades.

Rearward view of the Hercules H-4’s fuselage

Despite its brief flight history, the Spruce Goose has become an icon of American aviation and engineering. It is considered a marvel of engineering and a testament to the determination and ingenuity of its builders. The Hercules is now on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

Liberty Lifter – YouTube

Modern Military

Sources:

DARPA Responds on “Liberty Lifter” Seaplane – Naval News

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (darpa.mil)

Liberty Lifter (darpa.mil)

Homepage | National Air and Space Museum (si.edu)

Navy Unveils Plans For Massive Sea Plane