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Sat, Mar 23, 2024

Joby Aviation Bolsters USAF Relationship

2 More Aircraft Ordered for Delivery to SOCOM Base

Joby Aviation committed to delivering an additional 2 eVTOL aircraft to MacDill Air Force Base under the branch's continued testing of novel tech.

The delivery is set to take place next year under the AFWERX Agility Prime contract. Joby originally delivered the first of its eVTOLs to Edwards AFB in 2023. There's one more on tap for delivery there. Under the original Agility Prime contract, Joby can provide up to 9 aircraft, leaving 5 slots for future expansion. Edwards has been home to Joby's greatest military attentions, working with the 412th Test Wing on "testing and experimentation". The newest order will see the next Joby eVTOLS delivered to MacDill AFB, home to US Special Operations Command, CENTCOM, and a handful of units from the Air Mobility Command. That's a pretty solid audience to impress for the marque. On one hand, the secret squirrel units are plush with funding, with the flexibility to procure what they want without much red tape. (It's worth recalling that SOCOM brought back the OV-10 Bronco for a short spell, dabbling in CAS platforms from the vietnam era with nary a complaint from anyone.)

Agility Prime has been, from the outside, a pretty open-ended system by USAF standards. They're staying light on their feet, evaluating the battle worthiness of all this new electric VTOL equipment.  Like any other groundbreaking weapon system, entire schools of thought and competing theories will come to fruition as everyone susses out the strengths and weaknesses of each system. In decades past, the Air Force, and its predecessor the Army Air Corps, had to prove its utility to unimpressed cavalrymen and nonplussed dreadnought captains. Since the early years, air power in both the USAF and Naval Aviation has gone on to sweep the battlefield as the best, most adaptable ordnance delivery method, rewriting the book on naval warfare and consigning centuries of know-how to history. It's not surprising that the Air Force is trying to stay on the cutting edge of things, particularly with the lessons flowing so constantly out of Eastern Europe. Uncrewed, battery powered, autonomous, supremely maneuverable weapon systems are already rewriting decades of battle doctrine despite their relatively janky systems and interfaces today. That's why Agility Prime came into being - The program committed to fielding "operationally relevant air mobility from over 60 potential use cases" out the gate, assessing the strategic value of zero-emission, runway independent aircraft. 

"The early investment and vision by the US government in this critical technology is proving foundational as we continue our path toward commercial passenger service. We're grateful to our partners at the Department of Defense for their ongoing support and continued leadership in adopting eVTOL technology," said JoeBen Bevirt, Founder and CEO of Joby. "We're looking forward to working with units at MacDill Air Force Base as we further explore the potential use cases for our aircraft, demonstrating its capabilities in realistic settings."

"This work will provide Joby with valuable early operational experience, while providing the USAF with firsthand understanding of the performance of our aircraft and its potential applications," added Bevirt.

"The Agility Prime team is very excited to progress through a novel acquisition approach," said Lt Col John Tekell, Agility Prime Branch Chief. "These two aircraft at MacDill AFB allow the program to take the next steps in learning to maximize the operational opportunity of eVTOLs."



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