US Air Force Awards $85 Million Contract to Develop Pre-Production eSTOL Aircraft
Electra has been selected by the U.S. Air Force AFWERX innovation arm for a Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) award that secures up to $85 million between private investments, government funding, and matching Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding for Electra’s development of a full-scale pre-production prototype electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft.
Designed for operations from soccer field-sized spaces, Electra’s eSTOL represents a new class of aircraft, characterized by helicopter-like operational flexibility with performance and operating costs better than comparable fixed-wing aircraft. The eSTOL aircraft can operate in environments ranging from busy urban areas to remote landing strips, and fly missions including on-demand urban and regional air mobility, cargo logistics, executive transport, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and more.
Electra has received over 1,000 eSTOL aircraft orders from commercial customers around the globe aiming to lower operating costs, access new markets through smaller ground footprints and lower noise profiles, and meet both customer and investor expectations for reduced carbon emissions. This STRATFI award secures an investment partnership that funds the rapid development, test, and evaluation of a full-scale pre-production prototype eSTOL aircraft which can be used by the Air Force to validate requirements and operational use cases. It will leverage Electra’s upcoming world-first flight test of a two-seat piloted eSTOL technology demonstrator aircraft and substantially accelerates the transition path for Electra’s commercial nine-passenger eSTOL product aircraft to support Air Force missions of interest.
This effort builds directly from Electra’s six active USAF SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II and Phase III contracts which have matured each of the core aspects of eSTOL technology – distributed electric propulsion, blown lift aerodynamics and acoustics, precision flight controls, and hybrid-electric powertrains. Under the STRATFI contract, Electra will further strengthen its partnership with the AFWERX Agility Prime program, chartered with expanding technology transition paths to accelerate emerging dual-use markets by leveraging government resources for rapid and affordable fielding, while bolstering U.S. tech advantage.
“It’s vital that we ensure new advanced air mobility technologies with dual-use applications are developed and manufactured here at home in the U.S.,” said Lieutenant Colonel John “Wasp” Tekell, Air Force Agility Prime Lead. “Electra’s eSTOL technology has the potential to deliver valuable logistics and mobility capabilities to the Air Force.”