USMC showing interest in Archer eVTOL aircraft
Archer Aviation, a company based in California specializing in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, is witnessing a notable uptick in attention from military officials.
The startup, headquartered in California, announced on August 7th that it had recently hosted an official visit from a delegation of leaders representing the US Marine Corps (USMC). During this visit, Archer introduced its fully electric Midnight aircraft.
Archer has articulated its intention to collaborate closely with its government services advisory board members to establish stronger connections with various US government and public safety agencies across the nation. The aim is to explore opportunities for the commercial utilization of their eVTOL aircraft.
This visit from the USMC officials closely follows a contract inked in July between Archer and the US Air Force, with a value of $142 million, for the potential procurement of up to six Midnight eVTOLs. While the primary focal point of Archer’s business is the development of eVTOLs for use in commercial air taxi services, the company is concurrently positioning itself within the US military sphere.
Archer confirmed to FlightGlobal on July 31st that the as-yet-to-be-certified Midnight aircraft is slated to be included in the air force’s AFWERX Agility Prime program. This initiative seeks to evaluate the transformative potential of vertical flight market and eVTOL technologies, specifically in relation to the requirements of the US Department of Defense (DoD).
Archer’s strategic approach involves advocating to Pentagon leadership that its eVTOLs hold substantial value in modern combat operations. The company’s focus is on functionalities such as personnel transportation, logistical support, and search and rescue missions.
The Midnight aircraft is projected to provide a notably safer and quieter alternative to traditional helicopters, all while being more cost-effective for the US military in terms of transportation, operational, and maintenance aspects, particularly in field settings.
Archer has recently completed the manufacturing of its inaugural Midnight aircraft, designed with a targeted payload capacity of around 453kg (1,000lb). Although the Pentagon currently lacks explicit plans for the development of all-electric aircraft for front-line service, there is a growing trend of interest, as noted by retired US Army Major General Clay Hutmacher.
Hutmacher, a former aviator from the Special Operations Command who currently serves on Archer’s government services advisory board, emphasizes the highly appealing attributes of Archer’s Midnight aircraft, citing its cost-effectiveness, minimal noise levels, and exceptional safety features. He believes that these qualities render the Midnight aircraft an extremely compelling option for integration into the fleet of all branches of the US military.
Although the US Marine Corps (USMC) has not yet taken formal steps toward acquiring the Archer aircraft, nor any other eVTOLs for that matter, the service is presently undergoing a significant transformation. Pentagon leadership is actively working on a comprehensive restructuring of the naval infantry force, aimed at facilitating dispersed operations on smaller islands within the Indo-Pacific region. This shift follows two decades of intense ground combat engagements in the Middle East.
Dubbed “Force Design 2023,” this initiative is centered around the creation of compact units comprising USMC ground troops equipped with precision weaponry, such as the Raytheon Tomahawk cruise missile. These units will receive support from naval vessels positioned further out at sea.
In response to this strategic evolution, both the US Navy and the USMC are exploring novel aircraft solutions that can provide essential logistics support to these widely dispersed forces. This exploration includes the assessment of new aircraft options as well as potential adaptations of existing platforms.