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Defense Science Board Task Force on Future Need for VTOL/STOL Aircraft

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Final rept.

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Since the start of the global war on terrorism, many operations involving U.S. forces have been supported by helicopters, to include combat operations, counterinsurgency operations, security operations, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance operations. But in many cases, rotary wing aircraft have not been well suited to the mission. In fact, helicopter-related losses are among the leading causes of fatalities in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In consideration of these facts, this task force was convened to address the features and capabilities that vertical take-off and landing VTOL and short take-off and landing STOL aircraft should have in order to contribute to the nations security needs into the 21st century. As a basis for its assessment, the task force evaluated the lift requirements to support the Armys current concept for distributed ground combat-mounted aerial maneuver-the centerpiece of which is the Future Combat System FCS. The success of this concept depends on the ability to lift troops, equipment, and supplies from an intermediate staging base, located either on land or at sea, to battlefield enclaves that could be in unimproved, primitive locales. The conclusion reached by the task force is that mounted aerial maneuver with current FCS forces strains airlift technology and operations. Suitable aircraft and supporting ships, while technically possible, will be costly, technically risky, and take a long time to field. The bottom line of this study is this there are airlift solutions to distributed, long-distance combat. But the costs and benefits, according to the proposed operational requirements, should be carefully examined and alternative concepts explored to achieve the same results at lower risk and cost.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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