Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"an airborne truck"

With its armored doors and bulletproof windows, the burly Humvee has been a stalwart ground transport for the U.S. military.

But now the Pentagon thinks the hulking vehicle should also be able to fly.

On Tuesday, Pratt & Whitney's Rocketdyne division in Canoga Park announced that it had been awarded $1 million to design a propulsion system for a flying Humvee.

Don't scoff — there is good reason for an airborne truck, defense officials say.

With the proliferation of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, on the ground, a hovering Humvee would be an ideal way to keep soldiers out of harm's way, Pentagon officials said in announcing the award.

Dubbed the Transformer, the vehicle — at least an artist's rendering of it — looks like a toy commando truck out of a "G.I. Joe" cartoon.

But according to the Pentagon's technical specs, it would "combine the advantages of ground vehicles and helicopters into a single vehicle equipped with flexibility of movement."

The Transformer would have folding wings that pop out from the side of the vehicle and helicopter-like rotor blades attached to either the roof or the wings, depending on which design the Pentagon eventually picks. Also, it would be robotic, meaning there would be no pilot or driver behind the wheel.

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