Strap in for a wild ride: U.S. Special Operations Command could end up testing out a prototype of a military-grade jet pack as soon as this summer, Stars & Stripes reports.
- JetPack Aviation — the California-based company that's been hacking away at a relatively lightweight "individual lift device" (ILD) as part of a joint research agreement with SOCOM since 2016 — plans on delivering a full-scale prototype to SOCOM for testing by "late summer," the company told Stars & Stripes.
- JetPack Aviation personnel have reportedly been working with operators for years to tinker with the functionality of its turbine engine-powered JB-10 ILD prototype, per Stars & Stripes, and at least one Navy SEAL has already trained on the rig.
- While the JB-10 can currently fly at speeds of more than 200 mph for just about 10 minutes at a time, JetPack Aviation CEO David Mayman unveiled a next-generation JB-11 version just over a year ago. According to a 2017 SEC filing, the company was aiming to test "a multiengine, fully-autonomous unmanned platform" by the end of 2018.
- The jetpack concept has enthralled military planners for decades: As Australian Army Lt. Col. Matthew P. Dirago observed in a December article on ILDs in the U.S. Army's Military Review professional journal, jetpacks offer opportunities for "enhancing distributed maneuver, undermining an adversary's A2/AD defenses, augmenting autonomous systems, and enhancing the ability to defeat adversaries in complex terrain."
- How operators might actually use the jetpack is another question. "The possible uses of this technology are still being evaluated," SOCOM told Stars & Stripes in a statement, adding that the command "does not discuss specific details or potential applications of such technologies."