All throughout the year, the American Army and the Air Force have been investing billions of dollars into developing technologies and systems that could secure their dominance in future wars. Interestingly, these two military branches rarely encounter each other in the R&D field, as their individual requirements are quite different.
However, there is one critical piece of technology that seems to be a perfect match for several of the future technologies that both the Army and the USAF are planning to develop: a smaller, lighter, heavy-fueled rotary engine created by LiquidPiston.
The U.S. Air Force has awarded LiquidPiston a three-year, $35 million contract to support the development of a lightweight, portable, modular, and scalable heavy-fueled Rotary Engine Hybrid Power System for multiple military applications. The new contract includes $15 million in SBIR funding from the prestigious STRATFI program, announced in June 2023.
With this funding, the company will design and develop a heavy-fueled rotary engine rated at over 90 horsepower and suitable to be fitted in a modular hybrid power system.
The engine can serve as the “power pack” for a variety of applications of interest to the Air Force, including unmanned aerial systems (UAS) propulsion, human- and cargo-carrying Organic Resupply Bus (ORB) capabilities, mobile operating bases, and vehicle auxiliary power units (APUs).
“Increased mobility and rapid deployment of power are important to the Air Force as we support our forces in complex multi-domain operations across the globe,” said Lt Col John Tekell, AFWERX Agility Prime Lead. “Hybrid power systems and compact rotary engine technology have the potential to provide a disruptive modular power solution for a variety of critical support and tactical applications.”
LiquidPiston’s recent STRATFI award comes on the heels of other significant achievements, including a $9 million development contract from the U.S. Army to develop a prototype “core engine” based on the company’s XTS-210 design, as well as an $8.3 million award to revolutionize battlefield power generation for the U.S. Army.
“By working with the Air Force, we’re laying the building blocks for a new portfolio of engines in the 100-horsepower class,” said Alec Shkolnik, Founder and CEO of LiquidPiston. “We’re excited to work with the Air Force on this program, providing a logistical advantage to the warfighter. The technology being developed will have dual-use application, ultimately being scalable and adaptable to meet a spectrum of military – and soon commercial – needs.”