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BETA Technologies completes first deployment with U.S. Department of Defense

BETA Technologies Press Release | January 29, 2024

Estimated reading time 9 minutes, 8 seconds.

BETA Technologies has concluded its first deployment with the Department of Defense, which saw the electric aerospace company stationed at Duke Field, Eglin Air Force base (AFB) for three months of experimental operations and training with the 413th Flight Test Squadron through the Air Force’s Agility Prime program.

This deployment was the next phase of a larger developmental test and evaluation (DT&E) effort being conducted by the U.S. Air Force to assess electric aviation’s applicability for DoD missions. 

BETA’s ALIA aircraft arrived at Duke Field on Oct. 26, 2023, following a more than 1,500 nautical mile mission down the east coast. During this mission, ALIA flew through the Class Bravo airspace of Boston and New York, and became the first electric aircraft to fly through the Flight Restricted Zone of Washington, D.C. to stop at Joint Base Andrews. 

The deployment included BETA’s ALIA CTOL electric aircraft, which was utilized for operational experimentation and USAF pilot and maintenance assessments, and a MobileDome simulator, which the BETA flight test team and USAF pilots used to rehearse flights and practice emergency procedures and served as a key tool for training and immersion for stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs).

BETA also installed a Level 3 DC fast-charger (350kW) — the first-ever electric aircraft charging station at a Department of Defense installation. This multimodal charger supported charge needs between flights. 

Over the course of the deployment, BETA’s core flight test team worked hand-in-hand with AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation unit and the 413th Flight Test Squadron to conduct hands-on experimentation and training with the technology to validate military use cases including critical resupply, cargo delivery, and personnel transport.

These use cases mirror real operations the Air Force has planned for its multitude of theaters. 

Key milestones of the deployment include: 

  • Air Force-Directed Operational Experimentation and Training: Together, BETA and the 413th achieved mission assessments across a broad span of categories, including flight operations, maintenance support, and infrared signature characterization. The missions from Duke Field, which ranged from short sorties to extended missions, averaged approximately $15 in energy per flight. 

The 413th Flight Test Squadron invited numerous local Air Force Pilots to participate in electric aircraft training at the MobileDome simulator. These subject matter experts provided input on flight characteristics and ease of learning the platform.

  • Performed the First Simulated Casualty Evacuation Mission with an Electric Aircraft: The 413th Flight Test Squadron invited BETA to participate in a simulated casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) scenario with the 41st Rescue Squadron, an active duty Air Force unit based out of Moody AFB in Georgia. The CASEVAC mission was an exercise-style proof of concept with a scenario involving a simulated patient (rescue randy), ground forces, a simulated Quick Reaction Force (QRF), and an HH-60W and ALIA aircraft. In this scenario, the HH-60W transported a simulated casualty from a forward operating base (FOB) to an operating location located in friendly territory, then returned to the FOB with the QRF. The ALIA aircraft performed the patient transport to definitive medical care from the operating location, relieving the HH-60W Jolly Green crew, completing the first CASEVAC and first direct operations mission with USAF for an electric aircraft. 

This scenario demonstrates key impacts electric aviation can have on military services, including increase in response time at the FOB. The HH-60 was able to initiate the movement of the QRF sooner than if it had to move the patient to definitive medical care. The decision to transport the patient the total distance in the HH-60W vice stopping at an intermediate location is based on suitable runway availability and availability of an aircraft for transport such as a C-130. 

This simulated mission also demonstrated the decrease in resources required via electric aviation. A similar C-130 patient transport requires similar runway length and would require a crew of at least three and approximately $1,600 in fuel. The ALIA aircraft accomplished this simulated mission with a crew of two and an energy cost of approximately $5 in electricity. 

  • Executed a Maintenance Recovery Team Mission: ALIA completed a simulated Maintenance Recovery Team (MRT) mission, delivering maintenance assets for an F-35 Lightning II which landed at Duke Field. BETA’s electric aircraft flew to Tyndall AFB to pick up the simulated part and bring it back to the aircraft in need. 

The MRT mission was a demonstration with implications for training, exercise, and operational maintenance responses. The ability to fly an MRT at distances normally relegated to driving opens possibilities for cost and man-hour savings. The cost estimate for a maintenance response of a home-unit based ALIA, involving two flight legs, would be approximately $25 in electricity and 1 hour of flight time. A standard F-250, covering the same geographical distance, would cost approximately $45 in fuel and equate approximately four hours of driving.

A faster response time allows maintenance to be performed same-day and can directly improve downtime for advanced aircraft, resulting in other reduced costs for flying squadrons, such as unexpected lodging and per diem, as well as additional transportation costs to recover a fixed aircraft.

  • Integrating and Growing BETA’s Charge Network: In addition to regular use of its on-base multimodal DC fast charger at Duke Field, which powered the months-long deployment, the BETA team flew ALIA from Duke to Valdosta, GA, transiting through Decatur, GA, to officially commission the BETA charger at Valdosta Regional Airport. BETA is also validating mobile charging solutions for contingency and austere operating locations. 

In addition to the flight test milestones and more technical operational assessments conducted, the data collected from experimentation at Duke Field demonstrates the value of electric aviation within the modern operational environment. 

This deployment was a significant next step in a long-standing partnership between BETA and the DoD, through its AFWERX Agility Prime Program. BETA first partnered with AFWERX in 2020, and has collaborated with the Air Force and Army through this program, accelerating the development and adoption of electric aviation and infrastructure within the U.S. military and commercial market. Through this partnership, BETA became the first electric aircraft developer to receive an airworthiness certificate for manned flight from the military, and has also conducted the industry’s only manned qualitative evaluation flights with test pilots from the Air Force and Army. 

BETA continues to progress its all-electric aircraft, ALIA CTOL and ALIA VTOL, toward FAA certification, anticipating entry into service in 2025 and 2026, respectively. Late last year, the company opened the doors to its 188,500 square foot aircraft production facility in South Burlington, Vermont, where it will begin manufacturing these aircraft on its production line. 

This press release was prepared and distributed by BETA Technologies.

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