DARPA Selects Performer Teams for Liberty Lifter X-Plane Pro
Stay informed with our
free newsletters

This news is classified in: Defense Military Aircraft Transport / Logistics

Feb 2, 2023

DARPA Selects Performer Teams for Liberty Lifter X-Plane Program

  • First phase will define the seaplane's design and capabilities

Two teams -- General Atomics working with Maritime Applied Physics Corporation and Aurora Flight Sciences working with Gibbs & Cox and ReconCraft -- will develop designs for DARPA’s Liberty Lifter Seaplane Wing-in-Ground Effect full-scale demonstrator. The Liberty Lifter program aims to demonstrate a leap-ahead in operational capability by designing, building, floating, and flying a long-range, low-cost X-Plane capable of seaborne strategic and tactical heavy lift.

The planned Liberty Lifter demonstrator will be a large flying boat similar in size and capacity to the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. Goals include takeoff and land in Sea State 4, sustained on-water operation up to Sea State 5, and extended flight close to the water in ground effect with the capability to fly out of ground effect at altitudes up to 10,000 feet above sea level.

“We are excited to kick off this program and looking forward to working closely with both performer teams as they mature their point-of-departure design concepts through Phase 1,” said DARPA Liberty Lifter Program Manager Christopher Kent. “The two teams have taken distinctly different design approaches that will enable us to explore a relatively large design space during Phase 1.”

Unmanned Cargo Aircraft  - Market and Technology Forecast to 2031

Unmanned Cargo Aircraft - Market and Technology Forecast to 2031

Market forecasts by Region, Application, Propulsion, and End User. Country Analysis, Market and Technology Overview, Opportunities and Impact Analysis, and Leading Company Profiles

Download free sample pages

The General Atomics team has selected a twin-hull, mid-wing design to optimize on-water stability and seakeeping. It employs distributed propulsion using twelve turboshaft engines.

General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Liberty Lifter concept

Aurora Flight Sciences point-of-departure design more closely resembles a traditional flying boat, with a single hull, high wing and eight turboprops for primary propulsion.

During Phase 1, DARPA will work with both performer teams and Department of Defense stakeholders to refine the Liberty Lifter designs with particular attention to operational needs and operating concepts. The Phase 1 contract awards are for an 18-month period of performance with six months of conceptual design work and nine months of design maturation culminating in a preliminary design review. There will be an additional three months for manufacturing planning and test/demonstration planning reviews.

As scheduled, Phase 1 will transition into Phase 2 in mid-2024 with continued detailed design, manufacturing, and demonstration of a full-scale Liberty Lifter X-Plane. DARPA anticipates teaming with one or more DoD Service and international partners for those activities and further development of the Liberty Lifter concept into an operational vehicle.



Digital Engineering for Defense Summit

Digital Engineering for Defense Summit

National Harbor, MD
Jun 14 - 15, 2023

View agenda
Assured Logistics Summit

Assured Logistics Summit

National Harbor, MD
Apr 12 - 13, 2023

View agenda