Williams WASP / X-Jet

jpg of a flying thing

HEY!!! Check out the book somebody wrote on the WASP - its great!
(excerpt from Armed Forces Journal, December 1972 "Marines Push "Flying Belt Idea")

Always ready to do something for the grunt, the Marines, with an assist from industry initiative, are experimenting with the answer to the Arabian Nights' Magic Carpet. Civilian models have flown already; a greater capability military version my fly next summer.

The operational concept and the vehicle resulting from the requirement is known as STAMP, an acronym for Small Tactical Aerial Mobility Platform. In concept, STAMP is similar to the famous jeep, low level transportation in the three wars. STAMP will have a payload of 500 pounds plus the driver. There will be room for one passenger. Its speed will be 60 to 80 knots and will have a 30 minute flight duration or a 30 mile range.

Heart of the WASP is the Williams WR-19-2 mini-jet billed as the world's smallest fan-jet engine. It is 12 inches in diameter, 24 inches long, weight 67 pounds and produces 430 pounds of thrust - enough to propel rider, vehicle, fuel, and engine.

For the Marine STAMP program Williams is developing the WR-19-9 engine of greater thrust and growth potential. While the -2 model has only a 1.2:1 bypass ratio of air impelled outside the engine by the fan to air going inside the jet turbine, the 130 lb -9 model will have a 5:1 bypass ratio and give 570 lbs of thrust. Growth potential to 850 pounds of thrust exists in the engine, according to the engineers. However, the Marines feel they need around 1,000 pounds for the missions they foresee and still another more advanced model my be required to power a production vehicle.

Initial Marine Funding is $1.3 million... The contract with Williams buys its proposed two-man WASP airframe and rents it fan-jet engine. (end of excerpt...)

Work continued and in the 1980s, the WASP II was born...This comes part comes from "Turbofan-powered Flying Carpet", Popular Science, September, 1982.

The U.S. Army paid about $2.4 Million for Williams to develop the first two test machines in a quest for greater mobility in the field. Unlike the original Rocket Belts, these are like podiums, each with two-feet-long jet engines positioned waist-high to the "pilot", who simply walks up to the machine, steps on the platform, starts the engine, and flies. Standing upright, he has two controls: a throttle on the right to adjust height and speed, a grip on the left to turn left or right. Pitch in any direction is accomplished by weight shift, as in some hang gliders. Fixed stabilizer fins act like a fixed rudder fin to provide stability. There is an emergency parachute in the top front compartment. It is deployed by an explosive charge like a a shotgun shell that fires a three pound weight. That pulls the chute.

The machine weighs only 245 pounds and carries 150 pounds of fuel, making it reasonably portable. The test platform has no fuel gauge.... "Right now we have only flown it at heights of 60 to 70 feet," said the test pilot,"because at over 100 feet you lose visual cues, and it's hard to tell how fast you're moving up and down."

(end excerpt...)

Some clips from the "WASP" book by Terry Metzgar...
As you would imagine, they were a little worried about the possibility of engine problems. An engine sputter at 50 feet could be fatal. If the engine flamed out, to glow plugs were kept hot enough to restart the engine before it fell below 8,000 RPM.
How would you like to have a 63,000 RPM turbine engine spinning between your legs? What if the engine tossed a rotor blade? The engine was shielded with a Kevlar wrap to provide for this problem. The shielding was tested and deemed adequate
The Ballistic recovery system was integral to the safety of the pilot. There were two buttons on top of the sticks that the pilot held grasped. Pressing either one of these initiated the sequence. The parachute was attached to the pilot, who would be pulled free of the WASP.
The pilot you see flying the WASP is Bill Suitor. He has a long career of flying the Jet Belt, Rocket Belt, and the WASP. (and he's still doing it) When someone not familiar with kinesthetic flight tried the fly the initial WASP, it was deemed as very sensitive and easy to overcontrol. Modifications were made that made controlling the craft easier.
It was tested by 3 Army non-pilot types who received training by the company. All 3 recommended that the WASP would prove a worthy purchase. So what happened?

Well, it doesn't seem like the answer is an easy one. Part of it seems that budgetary constraints on the Army side drove some of the decisions. Another factor might have been how the Army handled the procurement and testing of the system. I've attempted to get some information from Williams International, but that have yet to return my numerous phone calls.
An effort to find out more information runs into a snag on the government side of the house. Practically all of the government reports are "Limited Use" requiring Freedom of Information Act to gain access. Terry Metzgar, author of the WASP book, has already gone this route with some success. I've been trying contact him to get more information.
As always, I'm looking for whatever information anybody else out there might have.
Jim Noetzel, jnuts@prysm.net
© 1996 Jim Noetzel - you can't fold, spindle, or mutilate this work
Last Update: June 30, 1996