In the midst of a future conflict, an American fighter jet is shot down while operating over hostile territory. The terrain is too complicated and risks are too great to send in a traditional combat search and rescue team. So U.S. commanders turn to a novel option: air-drop a small, ultra-quiet autonomous air vehicle with short or vertical take-off and landing capabilities near the crash site so the downed aviator can fly to safety.
Though it may sound like a scene straight out of a sci-fi war movie set in the near future, this is a concept the U.S. Air Force wants to actively explore. The Air Force Research Laboratory first posted the request for proposals for what they blandly described as a "Personnel Recovery / Transport Vehicle" on the U.S. military's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program website on May 2, 2019.
"In supporting the 2018 National Defense Strategy, there is a need to deploy, survive, operate, maneuver, and regenerate in all domains while under attack in theaters throughout the globe," the notice says. "Diverse environments will require operations from new isolated locations, at greater distances, requiring low cost solutions for increasing our options for providing transport of small teams of personnel into and out of harm's way without increasing the number of personnel at risk (the aircrew) needed to move these teams."