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WALRUS (Heavy Lift Air Vehicle)

The WALRUS (Heavy Lift Air Vehicle) program is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) design and development effort. The primary objective is to demonstrate the feasibility and viability of a large lifting air vehicle able to transport a Unit of Action (UA) from 'Fort to Fight'. The WALRUS air vehicle(s) will be capable of inter-and intra-theater operations and will deploy the UA as a complete integrated package of personnel and equipment, ready to fight. It is anticipated that the objective operational air vehicle will be capable of lifting 500 tons or more across intercontinental distances and will be capable of operating from unimproved landing sites. The WALRUS air vehicle will also be suitable for a range of other missions requiring large platform and long endurance/range.

The Walrus program will develop and evaluate a very large airlift vehicle concept that is designed to fly heavier-than-air, unlike earlier generation airships. As a "hybrid aircraft," it will generate lift through a combination of aerodynamics and gas buoyancy. The program will develop and construct a Walrus Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) air vehicle with comparable C-130 airlift capability, and will explore, develop, and demonstrate the system concepts of operation. Scalability of the concept will also be demonstrated.

An objective vehicle is envisioned to be capable of lifting over 500 tons across intercontinental distances, being able to transport a Unit of Action (UA) from "Fort-to-Fight" as a complete integrated action-ready package of personnel and equipment. Additionally, Walrus may meet the multi-agency needs of common requirements for extended range airborne patrol, persistence and intra-theater support and re-supply.

Two advanced breakthrough technologies that will be investigated in the first phase are: vacuum / air buoyancy compensator tanks, and electrostatic atmospheric ion propulsion. The program's first phase will include system studies and development of a notional concept of the objective vehicle. Based on these studies and concept viability, the competitive second phase will lead to development, design, build and initial flight test of the ATD vehicle.

Program Plans

  • Development of the objective air vehicle design, operational requirements and CONOPs.
  • Competitive development of system requirements and preliminary ATD vehicle design based on selected concept options.
  • Risk reduction testing in support of ATD and objective air vehicles.
  • Complete detailed design ATD air vehicle continuing on to a critical design review.
  • Manufacture and fabricate ATD air vehicle.
  • Flight test and release to Services for evaluation testing of military utility.



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