During World War II, the Jeep was one of the key pieces of hardware that helped win the war for the Allies. By the time Vietnam rolled along, lousy roads and inhospitable terrain meant the helicopter had cemented itself as the troop transport of choice. But while both the Jeep and the helicopter are far more advanced than they were decades ago, the basic ideas are the same, and according to Popular Mechanics that could change – or more to the point, merge – soon.

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is asking for proposals for a flying Humvee that it calls, predictably, "The Transformer." The new transporter would be used to avoid roadside bombs and fly over insurgents, giving U.S. soldiers the upper-hand in battles that are traditionally won and lost by bunkers, bullets and bombs alone.

DARPA has a few 'must haves' for any flying fortress. Among them is the capability of vertical takeoff, a combined 250 mile travel distance between driving and flying, along with seating for four. One military contractor, Textron, thinks it has the answer to DARPA's latest challenge, and it involves hardware that is anything but future-tech.

The proposed military transport has wings, helicopter-like rotors and a powerful ducted fan for forward motion. While stationed on the ground, the multitasking war machine acts like a standard troop transporter, except the wings and blades, which are affixed to the roof above the rear seat, neatly tucked away. When it's time to hit the unfriendly skies the aerodynamic bits switch to Ready mode and the weighted rotors lift the vehicle. Once airborne, the rotors slow and the wings take over, providing lift while the fan provides directional boost. Textron is working with Carter Aviation Technologies, which currently produces commercial air vehicles, to build the vehicle.

Head over to Popular Mechanics for more information on the flying fighter-truck of tomorrow.

[Source: Popular Mechanics | Image: dvice]