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Fri, Apr 15, 2022

UK MoD Trying out Electric Aircraft

Pipistrel Velis Used in Joint Elbit/RAF Program

Elbit Systems UK has begun a series of battery-powered test flights under the UK Ministry of Defence in an effort to assess sustainable alternatives to current military aircraft. 

The concept was undertaken as part of a joint project between the MoD, and Affinity Flying Training Services, a joint venture between Elbit and KBR Inc. The testbed, dubbed the pathfinder, uses a Pipistrel Velis as a small, two-seater demonstrator. Flights aim to help the Royal Air Force assess the technology of current electric aircraft, determine its effectiveness as an impactful pilot training system, and provide a nice, zero-carbon operation to point to when critics point to MoD emissions. 

The pathfinder program was phased into 3 parts, initially testing flight from Damyn's Hall, Essex, and later, RAF Cranwell, with a pilot cadre of 20 rotating in to try out the Velis. Once the program reaches phase 3, the trials will welcome senior government officials and observers. The flights will continue under Affinity, who dealt with the appropriate flight and safety assurances needed for such a project. The program is an affordable, low-impact way to evaluate the tech without committing to large, expensive programs that could someday overstay their welcome, especially with the net-zero ambition of the MoD's ASTRA initiative looming.

"We are delighted to be leading this exciting initiative with the Ministry of Defence. The concept of zero emissions aircraft being utilized by the RAF has always been considered hypothetical and we are proud to have proposed and delivered initial capability for this pathfinder. Elbit Systems UK has always been, and continues to be, at the forefront of advances in the defense industry, supporting our Armed Forces as they address the requirements of tomorrow."



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