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."
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