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Senate forcing Air Force to advance electric helicopter tech

An aerial of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., May 12, 2021. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)
August 01, 2023

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee is “concerned” the U.S. Air Force is not testing and using electric helicopter technology and is pushing for an acceleration in the Air Force’s adoption of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs).

The committee has voiced concerns about the current pace of research and implementation of the technology, according to its report on the draft of the 2024 Department of Defense Appropriations bill.

The committee perceives a “significant potential for the development of cost-effective [eVTOLs] that can serve the needs of the warfighter, particularly in the role of personnel recovery, medevac, and logistic resupply.”

“The Committee is concerned that the Air Force does not have a sufficient plan for the testing, acquisition, and fielding of this capability into the force in the near term,” the report stated.

According to The Daily Caller, the report also stipulates that the Air Force has a three-month timeframe to provide details on its progress with eVTOLs and furnish a roadmap for operational use.

However, the issue of eVTOLs’ limited payload capacity and range, as documented by Amprius Technologies, raises valid questions regarding their immediate practicality.

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While the use of eVTOLs has the potential for environmental advantages such as zero emissions and quieter operation, Amprius Technologies has noted that the technology is not yet widely accessible or affordable. Amprius has highlighted the need for substantial time and investment to make eVTOLs a viable alternative to traditional helicopters.

Despite the challenges, the prospect of electric military vehicles is gaining traction in Congress, with Senate Democrats introducing a bill in 2022 to mandate 75% of the military’s non-tactical vehicle purchases be fully electric and manufactured in the U.S.

Additionally, the U.S. Army committed to partially electrifying its light-duty non-tactical fleet by 2027, according to the Army’s 2022 Climate Strategy.

The Army is also planning to utilize hybrid vehicles to accomplish the full electrification of its light-duty non-tactical fleet by 2035.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has expressed support for transitioning the Department of Defense’s non-tactical vehicle fleet to full electric by 2030.

Granholm previously stated, “I do think that reducing our reliance on the volatility of globally traded fossil fuels, where we know that global events such as the war in Ukraine can jack up prices for people back home, it does not contribute to energy security. I think energy security is achieved when we have home-grown, clean energy that is abundant, like you see in Iowa, we think that we can be a leader globally in how we have become energy independent.”

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.