A joint venture between Elbit Systems UK and KBR Inc’s joint venture, Affinity Flying Training Services Ltd (Affinity), has begun a series of battery-powered flight tests for the UK Ministry of Defence to assess the feasibility of environmentally friendly alternatives to current military aircraft.
The Sustainable Aviation Pathfinder program, based on trialing zero-emissions aircraft, demonstrates the company’s commitment to providing innovative solutions for the UK Armed Forces and addressing the needs of the future. In line with the UK Department of Defence’s ‘green’ transformation, the flights aim to help the Royal Air Force (RAF) assess the technology of electric aircraft, determine its effectiveness as an impactful pilot training capability and realize the net-zero ambitions of the service’s ASTRA initiative.
The test flights used a fully certified two-seater pilot training aircraft, the Velis Electro. The tests are conducted within the three-phase Pathfinder program for four months in total. As a part of Phase 1 in December 2021, test flights took off from Damyn’s Hall, Essex, and continued into January 2022. Phase 2 commenced in March 2022 and saw the aircraft join Affinity’s existing fleet at RAF Cranwell, where up to twenty additional pilots will fly the eco-friendly aircraft. Finally, Phase 3 of the flight trials will welcome senior government officials and observers.
A small team of Test Pilots from the Air and Space Warfare Centre have flown the Pipistrel Velis Electro aircraft during these tests.
In addition to the flight tests, the Ministry of Defence is also exploring logistics support and infrastructure requirements, and Total Safety that would be associated with sustainable aviation. The goal is to ultimately deliver air and space power through the most sustainable means.