Archer signs $142 million deal with US Airforce
California-based electric aircraft startup Archer Aviation has signed contracts with the US Air Force worth up to $142 million. Archer says its electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) could represent a paradigm shift in military aviation.
The contract includes delivery of up to six examples of the Midnight eVTOL aircraft, sharing of flight test data and certification-related test reports, pilot training and development of maintenance and repair processes.
The production version of the eVTOL was first unveiled in late 2022. It has a range of up to 32 kilometres and a payload of more than 400 kilograms. With a charging time of just ten minutes between flights, the Midnight is designed primarily for short-haul transportation.
“This historic agreement reflects the steadfast commitment by our Armed Forces to embrace the cutting-edge technology our eVTOL aircraft offer,” said Adam Goldstein, Archer founder and CEO. “It’s clear that the development and commercialization of eVTOL technology continues to remain a national priority. We look forward to working closely with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force to integrate Midnight into their operational fleet with a focus on transport, logistics and rescue operations.”
Archer has already been working with the U.S. Department of Defense on a number of projects since 2021. The latest announcement comes after Archer announced in May the formation of an advisory board to work with the government. Members of the board will support direct contact with appropriate government agencies to advance the use of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft and related technologies.
eVTOLs are far cheaper to buy, run and produce than helicopters, though limited by shorter ranges because of the weight of batteries. With autonomous capabilities, eVTOLs become useful aircraft for evacuations, as well as medical and logistics transport to dangerous areas, such as catastrophe zones, forest fires and war zones, without putting pilots in danger. Since Archer’s Midnight aircraft uses a pilot, other than their economic advantages, useful characteristics are likely to be its much quieter flights in comparison to helicopters, for example.
Archer is reportedly partnering with auto company Stellantis to produce its eVTOL for passenger taxi aircraft. Construction of a joint manufacturing facility in Covington, Georgia, is already underway. Production there is scheduled to start in mid-2024. The initial plan is for up to 650 taxi aircraft eVTOLs per year, with potential expansion to up to 2,300 units.