The USA’s National Plan for Aeronautics R&D
The US Aerospace industry remains one of America’s strong export successes, and serves as an important core of the nation’s high-tech manufacturing workforce. An improved set of aerospace industry tax incentives in 2005 was a start, but AIA and others have been pressing for more. In late December 2007, NASA announced a National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure under Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13419. That’s wouldn’t be a big event in Britain or Europe, but it’s a first for America. The plan will be updated every 2 years, and stretches over a 10-year horizon with near (<5 year) and longer term (5-10 year) goals. A supplemental report with additional technical content, a preliminary assessment of relevant Federal aeronautics R&D activities to identify areas of increased emphasis and of redundancy, and an infrastructure plan that will include an identification of RDT&E capabilities considered critical to satisfying the national aeronautics R&D goals and objectives are all under construction in 2008 as supplements to the basic plan. A number of the plan's goals are civilian, of course and relate to airspace traffic and safety. Others are more obviously military...
For instance, improved lift-to-drag ratio for unmanned aircraft and military airlifters, better power-to-weight ratios for engines, UAV deconfliction in occupied airspace (the biggest barrier right now to UAVs’ full civil and military potential), quieter helicopters and rotorcraft (a big issue on the front lines), lower fuel consumption, alternative fuels, and related goals all have dual civilian/ military applications.
Blended wing body (BWB) aircraft like Boeing’s X-48B also get a nod. the plan begins with an improved next generation of conventional passenger/cargo aircraft like the Boeing 787, 737 next-generation, et. al. thanks to aerodynamics and engines. This would be followed by more advanced configurations like BWB, small supersonic, advanced rotorcraft et. al. that save even more fuel, and lower noise & emissions even further, beginning around 2020. By 2030, the plan envisages an “N+3” generation that begins to climb the learning curve with these revolutionary new designs and take them to the next level. It should be noted that Boeing itself is eyeing the US military’s KC-Y follow-on aerial tanker buy, and Special Operations’ need for stealthier, high capacity aircraft to replace its Hercules fleet, and thinking in terms of 2020-2025 for BWB military offerings that would have strong civilian cargo translations. These goals, too, are dual civilian/military, with strong spinoffs for both sides.
Still other fields, like hypersonics, are quite decidedly military/ space oriented. Sustained, controlled Mach 5-7 flight is a near term goal, Mach 8 a goal within 5 years, and Mach 10-14 within 10 years.
See NASA’s page: “President Bush Approves National Plan For Aeronautics Research And Development And Related Infrastructure” | Full plan [PDF]