Last May, the Pentagon's research and development agency, DARPA, announced the launch of a program intended to design a brand new strategic transport device, based on the Ekranoplan concept . These amphibious aircraft use ground effect, that is to say the excess pressure which is created between the wing and the ground when an aircraft operates at very low altitude, to increase their lift, allowing them to carry very heavy loads. important at high speed, while consuming less fuel. If the concept had been studied in the 60s and 70s, particularly in the Soviet Union, to design long-range naval strike aircraft, the technologies then available were not suitable to make it a truly operational military device. Things are now different, according to DARPA, which intends to use this principle not to design planes carrying anti-ship missiles, but to transport large logistical loads over very long distances, and as quickly as possible.
Indeed, while tensions with China continue to grow, the American Armies increasingly anticipate a scenario comparable to the Pacific War during the Second World War, forcing American forces to deploy over a very large area, considerably stretching its logistical lines, so as to prevent Beijing from extending its own defense perimeter, particularly in the southern Pacific Ocean. In addition, the more compact American armies now rely on the Joint All-Domain Command and Control doctrine, which assumes great mobility of forces, and therefore an even tighter logistical flow. However, traditional strategic transport, relying on ships capable of carrying very large cargoes but which are slow, vulnerable and which require suitable port infrastructure, and on strategic air transport, very fast but limited in transport capacity , and also dependent on infrastructure, does not meet this growing need.
This is where the Liberty Lifter program, so named in reference to the Liberty Ships cargo program of the Second World War which played a decisive role in the Allied victory both in Europe and in the Pacific, intervenes. By relying on Ekranoplans requiring no particular infrastructure for loading and unloading, other than a sufficient beach and expanse of water (which is not lacking in the Pacific), and capable of transporting much greater loads to those of any strategic transport aircraft at similar speeds of around 600 km/h, the American R&D Agency intends to give American forces a decisive advantage in this probable confrontation. Following a call for proposals, a classic procedure for DARPA, it is the combat drone specialist General Atomics, notably behind the famous Predator and Reaper, which has just been selected by the agency. American, for the creation of a technological demonstrator, with a modest budget of $8 million.
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