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Pentagon Selects Companies To Build Flying Humvees 302

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-really dept.
longacre sends in a quote from Popular Mechanics: "The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected two companies to proceed with the next stage of its Transformer, known as TX — a fully automated four-person vehicle that can drive like a car and then take off and fly like an aircraft to avoid roadside bombs. Lockheed Martin and AAI Corp., a unit of Textron Systems, are currently in negotiations with DARPA for the first stage of the Transformer project, several industry sources told Popular Mechanics at a robotics conference here in Denver." The picture included with the linked article says it all, really.
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Pentagon Selects Companies To Build Flying Humvees

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  • How long... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:20PM (#33397216)
    ... until hollywood actors, then rappers, then any jackass with money wants to buy one?
    • by Atzanteol (99067)
      Probably about as long until *I* want to buy one. Almost 1 second.
      • So in essence... (Score:3, Informative)

        This design looks like a militarized gyrocopter [microlight.in].

        Ruggedness, anyone? Now we have big flying targets well over the horizon to be seen by snipers and guys with RPGs.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hazem (472289)

          I'm curious to know how it will get around in urban warfare setting with narrow streets with that wing-span.

          • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:08PM (#33399894)

            I want to know how they expect this to help in any way, shape or form. The idea behind road-side bombs (IED's) is to remain as stealth as possible and then detonate as the vehicle or convoy is passing. I have two friends who served in Iraq: one who lucky survived an IED blast with only cuts and partial hearing loss (the gunner died from shrapnel and the passenger had severe injuries) and the other had the Humvee in front of his hit but thankfully no deaths. One even told me a story that they walked over an IED after they went to investigate suspicious movement in a building and it detonated but it was a 155mm shell buried upside down so the blast dissipated into the ground. They were lucky.

            Most of the IED's are disguised as broken down cars, carts or buried in the road itself. Some are poorly disguised, an example was one of my friends was in a convoy that stopped when a very out of place pile of rocks was spotted up the road. That IED was detonated by M2 machine gun fire. So some can be avoided but others are almost impossible to spot. Detonation was an area of interest and Army EOD (explosive ordinance division) was called in to disarm and study the methods of detonation used. Some were set off by a guy hiding near by with a wired detonator (my friend always said he pictured Wile E. Coyote hiding behind a rock with a plunger type detonator.) Others are set off using cell phones and in one case, timed by a washing machine timer (that one failed to detonate).

            So I really want to know if this is a ridiculous idea someone came up with or some form of pay out as a favor. It makes absolutely no sense. Besides this is the same military that sent Humvee with no doors or armor. Their only defense was to cover the floor with sand bags and pray they didn't take fire through the doors.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by MichaelSmith (789609)

              Before I read the article I was thinking in terms of an advanced ground effect vehicle. Maybe with four small turbine engines. Enough to get you over a road block, and set fire to it as a bonus.

              Another thought was the hybrid APC in Aliens. The top half is basically a helicopter. It drops on to the road and releases an armoured vehicle. The helicopter alone is very light so it can loiter above the field of operations providing a high view of the area. When the APC wants to be picked up they find an open area

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by AmiMoJo (196126)

              The military has been trying to develop a "flying jeep" since the late 1940s. In the '50s there was the Avrocar project which was a flying saucer with a jet engine in the middle and two seats. It had a few tethered test flights but was never stable.

              Their motivation was the ability to cross terrain where a jeep could not normally go, e.g. a forest or very steep incline with loose earth. Damaged roads and bridges were also a concern, as well a land mines.

              I imagine those reasons still exist, but now the techno

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      ... until hollywood actors, then rappers, then any jackass with money wants to buy one?

      If this finally gets us flying cars ... who cares? What could possibly go wrong?? :-P

      (And, yes, I am aware that we may not actually want most people navigating in three dimensions)

  • by Essequemodeia (1030028) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:23PM (#33397260)
    I'm pretty sure existing humvees upon discovering an exploding IED at close range fly through the air already.
  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:24PM (#33397262) Homepage Journal

    That is clearly a M.A.S.K. vehicle.

  • Weird... (Score:2, Funny)

    by grub (11606)

    At this rate we'll have flying school buses before flying cars.
  • by sean_nestor (781844) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:24PM (#33397280) Homepage
    that we've clearly got out budget priorities straight in this country.
  • by Dan667 (564390) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:25PM (#33397288)
    Military spending is out of control, this program should be killed.
    • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:32PM (#33397396)

      Helicopters can not be driven on the ground and can not be flown by 18 year old combat infantry.

      • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:40PM (#33397526) Journal

        Helicopters don't need to be driven on the ground - BECAUSE THEY CAN FLY - and nor could any flying vehicle be operated by 18 year old combat infantry.

        So really, is the cost in fuel savings for being able to temporarily drive on the ground, or temporarily lift off, really worth the money being dumped into the engineering, design and production of this vehicle, not to mention the increased target profile...
        Is it really worth it when we have vehicles that already fit this niche pretty well? You need to avoid the ground, go by air. We have air. You're going to need a qualified flight operator whether you only need to fly 50m or 5000m, so its not like you're saving on personel training by implementing this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by trentblase (717954)
        Seriously though, what is easier to design? (1) A helicopter modified to include wheels and automated flight or (2) a Humvee modified to fly with automated flight

        I'd vote for modified helicopters.
    • by zero_out (1705074)
      Humvee + Huey = Hummy? It's the spork of military vehicles. Meant to do both, but incapable of either.
    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:40PM (#33397532)

      Helicopters are very expensive, and it's enormously expensive to train the pilots to fly them (about $600 per hour for flight training in a turbine helicopter, just for operating/fuel/maintenance costs, instructor costs and overhead are extra). Helicopters are not very fuel efficient. And that's for a trainer helicopter; something armored like an Apache costs way more per flight-hour.

      This "flying jeep" is just ridiculous. It's basically a form of helicopter with wings for better fuel efficiency once under-way. But with wings on the side (plus big long rotor blades on top), there's no way it can drive on normal roads. The current Humvee is already almost too wide for standard roads. Plus, helicopters are already vulnerable to small-arms fire, unless they have tons of armor (like the Apache, which is big, expensive, and a fuel hog); this thing obviously doesn't have much armor.

      This project just looks like a way to give someone a bunch of taxpayer money for some stupid drawings and pointless meetings.

    • by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:53PM (#33397698) Homepage
      I think the idea is that driving 95 miles and flying 5 is cheaper than flying 100 miles.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I think the idea is wrong. Very, very wrong. You now need both flight and drive systems, a pilot instead of a driver and you will have to trade armor for the ability to fly.

      • by couchslug (175151) on Friday August 27, 2010 @04:57PM (#33398448)

        "I think the idea is that driving 95 miles and flying 5 is cheaper than flying 100 miles."

        It's a stupid idea. If you want airpower, buy aircraft.

        Driving anything that is light enough to fly 95 miles will beat the shit out of it, and it will remain far too light to be protective.

        It's a fit project for DARPA to EXPLORE tech that could get closer, but the goal is a benchmark, obviously not intended to be practical for decades if ever.

  • Yeah! I can't wait to see a VT flying/walking around town!
  • ... what. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IICV (652597) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:26PM (#33397308)

    a fully automated four-person vehicle that can drive like a car and then take off and fly like an aircraft to avoid roadside bombs

    What. To avoid roadside bombs, we're making Humvees that can fly automatically.

    Tomorrow's news: in order to prevent heat stroke in our soldiers, the Pentagon has begun selecting companies to build a satellite that will block out the sun.

  • Is it just me, or does it seem kind of redundant to have a rotary wing (helicopter style rotor), and fixed wing with rear-thrust device (can't tell if it's a jet or what it is, but the picture seems to have something at the rear of the car which looks like it's to produce thrust). I suppose sometimes redundancy is good, but in this case, wouldn't those two different types of flight systems interfere with each other (that is, either one is making you fly and the other is creating unnecessary drag/weight, or

    • Gyrocopter style lift?

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        From the article, yes it sounds like it uses powered rotation for takeoff, then autorotation once it's moving. But the whole idea seems silly to me. By definition, a flying vehicle must have less armor than a ground-based one. Either build a flying vehicle or build a truck. Try to build something that does both, and it will inevitably suck at both.
        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          By definition, a flying vehicle must have less armor than a ground-based one.

          Not necessarily. The Apache is well-armored, and uses depleted uranium for armor I believe. However, it's big, really expensive, and a serious fuel-guzzler.

          But you're right, there's no way this thing won't suck balls. There's no way it can even drive on normal roads with the wings.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      but the picture seems to have something at the rear of the car which looks like it's to produce thrust

      The artist's rendering is a picture of a flying car with a guy shooting out the door with a kind of "pchew, pchew" visual effect.

      I wouldn't read anything about any actual technology from this. It's popular mechanics filling in a visual, I doubt very much that it's rooted in anything meaningful.

      Heck, I doubt they'll be able to build a flying HMMV. Nobody has managed to create a flying car yet -- at least,

  • Where am I? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Andrewkov (140579) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:27PM (#33397322)

    Did I accidentally get redirected to The Onion?

  • One word: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:27PM (#33397326) Homepage

    Armor.

    What kind of armor can a flying Humvee really have? Military-spec Humvees are already heavier than a fat chick at an all you can eat buffet with a bag of holding...how do they expect to make them take off quickly at any given time?

  • by Manip (656104) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:28PM (#33397332)
    I can tell you right now this will fail and I can tell you why - it will cost less to run a heavily armoured vehicle than it would to fly even a lightly armoured one. It would also cost less to produce and be easier to maintain. Oh plus safer from ground fire and rockets.

    But apart from all of those blindly obvious holes, this is a grant plan.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Right you are. The secret to surviving IEDs is to build an inverted-cone shaped vehicle where the passengers sit high up away from the road and the shape deflects blasts outwards. Which is exactly what they already do in existing MRAPs [wikipedia.org]
    • by sco08y (615665) on Friday August 27, 2010 @04:06PM (#33397854)

      I can tell you right now this will fail and I can tell you why - it will cost less to run a heavily armoured vehicle than it would to fly even a lightly armoured one.

      When attacking a ground vehicle, an adversary can set off an explosive almost directly underneath a vehicle, and can aim a blast at specific parts of the vehicle; this is how EFP's work. (EFP's are fundamentally different from IEDs in the manner they're deployed.) All the adversary needs to aim it is a reference point like a tree or a telephone pole.

      Most ground movement will always be on roads because off-road travel is slow, dangerous and requires a tremendous amount of maintenance. You never see in movies what it's like to recover a stuck vehicle, or recover a tank that's thrown track. So ground vehicles have to carry large amounts of armor because they're going to get hit, and they're going to be right next to the explosion when they do. It is a good idea to simply get off the ground and not get blown up.

      Having driven MRAPs for a while, I think they're useful in places like Baghdad where there's a significant threat of harassment from IEDs, and where you've got reasonably good roads. But I'm doubtful that you can take the v-shaped hull concept and apply it to a purely tactical vehicle, as v-shaped means a high profile and high center of gravity. And in a place like Afghanistan, where roads are mountainous, narrow or non-existent, you're probably stuck flying anyway.

  • Logic Fail.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:30PM (#33397366)
    The point of a Humvee is that it's cheaper/easier/safer to drive than fly. If they can "take off" to avoid a road-side bomb then that implies they know where it is so they could also, you know....stop? Or turn around? I'm sure insurgents would love it if not only does the convoy stop when they encounter a roadside bomb, but instead of getting out and clearing the area/shooting insurgents they instead start spinning up giant rotors of death in close proximity to each other and then slowly become airborne targets to which even small arms fire can now cause catastrophic failure.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JSBiff (87824)

      Trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you know an *area*/stretch of road, is likely to have IEDs, but you don't know exactly where they are? But, in that case, wouldn't a simpler solution to be a chopper that can pickup a humvee, fly over the dangerous area, deliver it to a known safe drop point, and drop the hummer? Then, when it's time to go, pick up the hummer again and carry it out?

    • If they can "take off" to avoid a road-side bomb then that implies they know where it is so they could also, you know....stop? Or turn around?

      My thoughts exactly.. or they could stop taking the frickin roads..

  • Maybe a little bit of government funding would get his Skycar [wikipedia.org] up in the air?

    Of course, when you say you want an armor-plated flying humvee, he might just drop dead of a heart attack, so break it to him gently, please?

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      In 40 years of development, it has never flown with a passenger. Moller has been convicted of securities fraud. I suspect it would be faster and easier to start from scratch with a workable design than to pump more money into the failed Moller Skycar. That being said, the Skycar was way ahead of it's time in the same way the Apple Newton was, in that we have only recently come up with engines with the necessary power/weight ratio and control systems necessary to make something like this work. Sounds like th
  • by Herkum01 (592704) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:30PM (#33397372)

    Them Duke boys will now be asked to make those supply runs for the military. I just hope that there are enough dirt ramps in the middle east for them to succeed!

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:30PM (#33397376)

    a fully automated four-person vehicle that can drive like a car and then take off and fly like an aircraft to avoid roadside bombs

    That those smart military people have decided that bomb blasts are only 2 dimensional.

    Why would you want to make an armored vehicle that flies? There already is such a thing - it's called a HELICOPTER. But I guess when you have access to virtually infinite defense funding, I guess you're allowed to re-invent the wheel.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      But I guess when you have access to virtually infinite defense funding, I guess you're allowed to re-invent the wheel.

      Or, in this case, the rotary wing. :-P

    • To be fair to the dimensional explosion point Explosively Formed Penetrators [wikipedia.org] have become fairly common as they can be set up next to the road and penetrate even the thick side armor of the Humvees. Cars are moving only in one dimension really (along the road) so it's they'd be much easier to hit with these than a flying vehicle. That in no way saves this from being a terrible idea on all counts though.
  • Yeah, OK... (Score:3, Informative)

    by crow_t_robot (528562) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:33PM (#33397412)
    Coming from a guy that designs military combat vehicles for a living, this is another disaster in the works. If you need some reference material look at the Osprey program or the AAAV program. Both are massive failures with colossal budget overruns and they are similar in scope to this flying humvee idea.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by crow_t_robot (528562)
      To add to my earlier comment: "The V-22's development process has been long and controversial, partly due to its large cost increases.[40] The V-22's development budget was first planned for $2.5 billion in 1986, then increased to a projected $30 billion in 1988.[24] As of 2008, $27 billion have been spent on the Osprey program and another $27.2 billion will be required to complete planned production numbers by the end of the program." ...from wikipedia. This humvee project will be more complicated in ter
      • by Nadaka (224565)

        I thought the controversial part of the osprey was that it killed 30 marines on 3 separate test and demonstration flights? Making it the most deadly test vehicle ever?

    • Re:Yeah, OK... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:40PM (#33397522) Homepage Journal
      This is still a DARPA project. DARPA funds all sorts of wacky far-future development work in the off chance that some of it actually becomes feasible, and at the very least they try to learn a bit more about how to make a successful flying car, or why it won't work without unobtanium.

      $40 million bucks is not a lot for a military project. That's more "do some research and build a proof of concept and maybe we'll consider funding you to build them for real" money.

      Also, that was one of the most obnoxious webpages I've seen in awhile for having popups appear all over the article.
  • But.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by daemonenwind (178848) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:35PM (#33397440)

    Autobots can't transform into flying things. Only Decepticons do.

    This can't be allowed. We can't let the US Military get infiltrated by Decepticons!

  • DARPA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AtomicOrange (1667101) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:36PM (#33397444)
    DARPA is out there to look at the strategic techonologies that might be required in the future battlescape. Just because it starts out as a design concept that doesn't necessarily seem the best of ideas it's there to further flesh out and seek out innovation from industry/private sector. So many are quick to chastise DOD research, yet there is so much out there that wouldn't be possible without DARPA and other Military/Goverment funded research. Healthcare (ie Trauma response) is always a huge beneficiary to this research. Across the board it pushes technology and innovation in fields which may not have had the funding to be researching such.
  • Wrong car (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:41PM (#33397540) Homepage Journal
    We have only 5 years till Doc comes to get the tech to upgrade Deloreans to make them able to fly. Doing the practice in Humvees won't translate too well for a car that different, and things will get worse if we are too busy doing this to be able to develop MrFusion. Believe me, you don't want to create time paradoxes.
  • Old News (Score:4, Funny)

    by Target Practice (79470) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:43PM (#33397574)

    I drew pictures like that way back in third grade. This is very old news, and I'm sad it's taken military officials so long to catch up.

  • by xSauronx (608805) <xsauronxdamnit AT gmail DOT com> on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:48PM (#33397630)

    I'm waiting for the AT-AT...seriously people, these have been in the concept stage for a long time. If we can walk dozens of men in a huge machine all over the place, we wont have to get on the roads.

  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:52PM (#33397688)

    Imagine the meeting. Sitting round the table and the next item on the agenda is insurgency and road side bombs.

    How do we avoid the casualties?

    The best answer?

    "I know! We make the humvees fly!"

     

    • More like:

      Defense Industry rep: "We're running out of gimmicks and excuses. How can we spend more money on really expensive idiotic military equipment?"
      General: "Put rotors and wings on everything! You know, humvees, 55 gallon drums, propane tanks, latrines. Hell, let's make backpacks with rotors and make all our troops fly! Or jetpacks! That would be fucking cool!"
      Oil Industry rep: "Yeah! Think of all the fuel they would use! In a war zone! Imagine the premium per gallon!"
      Other Defense Industry rep: "
  • Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:57PM (#33397752)

    For the past few centuries, the biggest technological developments were driven by the military. Mass production started with guns. Aircraft were first made into actual tools by the military. Jet engines. Nuclear power. I don't have to tell you guys how much of modern computing is derived from the military, from ARPANet to microchips. Whatever your thoughts on the ethics of it, the military drives technology.

    Now we're just co-opting that process to get me my flying car.

  • Because amphibious vehicles have worked out so well that now everyone owns one! I suspect it is even harder to build something that both makes a good aircraft and a good car than it is to build something that both makes a good boat and a good car. As a child, my father sold Allsport Tracker [kijiji.ca] amphibious ATVs. Guess what -- they sucked. Big time.
  • How about not replacing [wikipedia.org] democratic [wikipedia.org] governments [wikipedia.org] with dictators, fixing our excessive consumption of hydrocarbons, and eliminating the need to fight wars to keep the hydrocarbons flowing? Might be a better investment than concocting stupid toys like this. Just sayin'.

  • Smarter and smarter vehicles for dumber and dumber wars.
    • I'm not so sure about the "smarter and smarter vehicles" part. It seems like a pretty stupid and unbelievably expensive idea, on the face of it.
  • by Locutus (9039) on Friday August 27, 2010 @04:14PM (#33397972)
    it's not needed. Think about it, it rolls along and somehow it'll fly to protect its occupants from roadside bombs? Doesn't it have to detect them before it jumps to the air? Otherwise, it's just and airplane or helo with some forward movement capabilities.

    I don't get how this could be justified and if anything, they should be running around with corded tiny copters out infront of the convoys carrying sensors to ID the buried bombs. Cabled or corded so it can have lots of power and be pulled in quickly for evasive moves. Not something without enough protection from the bombs or other fire power just so it can fly over a threat. my $.02

    LoB
  • It makes sense when you remember that these contracts exist to funnel tax payer money to corporations not to actually produce anything useful.
  • man... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zogger (617870)

    ...is that stupid looking. Government sure does come up with some harebrained excuses to drop tons of cash on fatcats all the time...

    Hey, here's a thought....don't invade other nations where the locals don't like you and resort to any weapon they can come up with to stop you. Of course I know this doesn't make the fatcats any *more* money, but really....

    Look at those pics....geez....the "insurgents" will enjoy their skeet shooting. And the oil companies will enjoy their profits, after first having to transi

  • That headline made me immediately think of that old screensaver for the Mac with flying toasters - a bunch of humvee's with flapping wings all flying in formation across my screen...

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday August 27, 2010 @04:34PM (#33398186)
    (recruiter's office)

    - Yeah, I been thinking about what you told me last week, but I've been looking into some of the associate programs down at the community college, like automotive repair, or maybe nursing, and, like, I could be making like forty grand a year in about two years? Plus I've been talking to my brother's buddy Dan, who just got back from two tours in Afghanistan, and he's really having a tough time readjusting to civilian life. Like, his back is all screwed up from this one non-com accident so he can't work, so he's just been sitting on the couch playing X-BOX all day and he's gained like fifty pounds, and he smashed up this one guy's car with a tire iron just caused he honked at him after the light turned green, y'know? And I heard his fiance took the baby and moved back in with her parents after he punched her out in his sleep for God's sake. So I mean it sound like a great opportunity and all, but I talked it over with my folks, and after weighing the pros and cons I'm gonna hafta say....

    - Has anyone talked to you yet about our new flying humvee program? (hands him a picture of the concept vehicle)

    - (studies the picture for about ten seconds, then looks up) Go on...

    .
  • I'm confused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fishthegeek (943099) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:05PM (#33398540) Journal
    I RTFA, okay not closely but I did read it. If you are going to fly periodically over short distances to avoid roadside bombs wouldn't you already have to know where the bomb is in order to avoid it? If you already know where the bomb is wouldn't it just make sense to take a different road?

    If the driver doesn't know there is a bomb (like in most every IED attack) the ability to fly doesn't do you a bit of good because you have already been turned into applesauce.
  • Budget priorities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superdude72 (322167) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:12PM (#33399072)

    So now the Army has money for flying robotic humvees just in case we have to occupy another country after we get out of the already grotesquely expensive occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan... and the Republicans are still trying to rob the Social Security trust fund.

    Goodbye, USA. It was nice while it lasted.

    Oh come on. All I want is a couple of extra express busses on the route I take to work in the morning so I don't get left standing on the curb as a full bus pulls away. Do you suppose my federal, state, and local governments could scrounge up some funds for that after they're done funding the military, some new sports stadiums, and tax cuts for billionaires? Pretty please?

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