DARPA Selects Four Contractors for SPRINT Program

Bell Textron’s SPRINT concept. Image – Textron

Four contractors have been selected for DARPA’s Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) project.

The Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) project is a joint DARPA/U.S. Special Operations Command effort that aims to design, build, and fly an X-plane to demonstrate the key technologies and integrated concepts that enable a transformational combination of aircraft speed and runway independence. The SPRINT X-plane is intended to be a proof-of-concept technology demonstrator and its flight test program seeks to validate enabling technologies and integrated concepts that can be scaled to different-sized military aircraft. The goal of the program is to provide these aircraft with the ability to cruise at speeds from 400 to 450 knots at relevant altitudes and hover in austere environments from unprepared surfaces.

For the Phase 1A effort, Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences, Northrop Grumman, Bell Textron, and Piasecki Aircraft Corporation were selected to develop conceptual design and define requirements and interfaces.   This phase will run for six months with a second round of funding expected in mid-2024.

Phase 1B will refine the X-plane design through comprehensive analyses, simulations, component and subsystem testing, manufacturing planning, and flight test planning, culminating in a preliminary design review. Phase 2 will encompass detailed design, construction, ground testing, and certification of the X-Plane Demonstrator. Phase 3, the X-plane flight test program, will validate the enabling technologies and integrated concept at an appropriate scale and under real-world flight conditions.

DARPA hopes to achieve an X-plane first flight in FY2027.

About Richard Pettibone

A military history enthusiast, Richard began at Forecast International as editor of the World Weapons Weekly newsletter. As the Internet grew in importance as a research tool, he helped design the company's Forecast Intelligence Center and currently coordinates the EMarket Alert newsletters for clients. Richard also manages social media efforts, including two new blogs: Defense & Security Monitor, covering defense systems and international issues, and Flight Plan, which focuses on commercial aviation and space systems. For over 30 years, Richard has authored the Defense & Aerospace Companies, Volume I (North America) and Volume II (International) services. The two books provide detailed data on major aerospace and defense contractors. He also edits the International Contractors service, a database that tracks all the contractors involved in the programs covered in the FI library. More recently he was appointed Manager, Information Services Group (ISG), a new unit that encompasses developing outbound content for both Forecast International and Military Periscope.

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