Back to the Future? Special Operations’ New Vehicle

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French special forces will begin testing Flyboard Air – an individual air-mobility platform. France’s Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly said the decision was made after Zapata Industries, the platform manufacturer, made structural changes in the device’s design to “improve the acoustic discretion, the autonomy of the Flyboard and to optimize the mass of its engine.”

The special forces will experiment with the individual flying platform, piloted, derived from the Flyboard-R {Air}, leaving the pilot’s feet and hands free.

The turboprop engine platform can fly up to an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), at a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mp/h) for 10 minutes with a maximum carrying capacity of 120 kg (264 pounds).

Zapata Industries was granted 1.3 million euros ($1.47 million) in 2018 by the French Ministry of Defense, requesting that the company remove structural constraints that hampered the platform’s suitability for military operations.

According to opex360.com, the French military’s Special Operations Command had identified the platform’s potential for a range of tasks such as “reconnaissance, to carry out infiltration/exfiltration missions, to serve as a flying logistics platform, to reduce the intervention time of a patrol, or even to be used as an assault vehicle.”

At first, the platform was found unsuitable because it was too conspicuous, and its fuel consumption was high (200 liters of kerosene per 100 km or 62 miles).

The two-engine platform can continue flying if one engine malfunctions, and if both the engines stop, it allows the pilot to make a controlled landing, according to thedefensepost.com.