The Boeing/Sikorsky partnership believe that once the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) medium Joint Multi Role (JMR) Technology Demonstration (TD) proving flights have taken place in 2017 the government customer should move quickly to a Request for Proposal (RfP) to, “maintain the momentum and move straight into a FVL medium utility replacement programme starting around the 2020-22."
Jeff Shelton, Boeing’s Senior Manager, JMR/FVL Global Sales & Marketing, added that flight programme for the JMR TD aircraft should be extended as long as possible so that industry could obtain the maximum amount of data while developing the aircraft that they would ultimately propose for the FVL competition.
“There is a number of hours stipulated in the flight test programme that takes it to 2019 but we are looking to extend that in order to accelerate FVL,” said Shelton.
Boeing and Sikorsky’s JMR TD aircraft is the SB1.DEFIANT rigid rotor co-axial rotorcraft which is founded on Sikorksy’s X2 technology which flew in 2011 which weighted 6,000 pounds. This was further developed into the S-97 RAIDER which flew last year and weighted 11,000 pounds. This would have been the aircraft Sikorsky intended to propose as the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) replacement until the programme was shelved indefinitely. The SB.1 DEFIANT will scale up to 32,000lbs and the eventual proposal aircraft will scale up bigger than that.
The aircraft 12 troops out over 400km, remain on station for 30 minutes and be capable of achieving a speed over 250 knots. “We will fly that aircraft into 2019. However the eventual programme of record will drive the size and weight of the aircraft."
The Army is concerned that they do not lose manoeuvrability on the objective, stated Shelton. The Boeing/Sikorsky partnership believe that the co-axial design can deliver that.
Rich Reward Ahead
There is a rich prize eventually waiting for the winner of FVL medium which will encompass both utility and attack versions of the new platform.
Aside from the US Army’s 3,000 UH-60 BLACK HAWKs and AH-64 APACHEs, there are also opportunities to include around 500 US Navy helicopters, and further opportunities for around 125 US Air Force helicopters and 50 US Coast Guard aircraft according to Boeing’s estimate.
While the Marines would not replace MV-22B OSPREY with the FVL medium, they would be looking for an armed escort, probably as the successor to the AH-1Z VIPER. The FVL medium utility could also replace the Bell Helicopter UH-1Y YANKEEs - perhaps around 400 helicopters in total.
The figures also include replacements from the international community who currently operated around 300 APACHEs and over 1,000 BLACK HAWKs who would be likely to follow suite behind but in line with US military replacements.
Shelton sees no conflict of strategy between Boeing’s continued partnership with Bell Helicopter over the ongoing marketing of the V-22 OSPREY tiltrotor, and his company’s decision to back the co-axial design against Bell Helicopter’s V-280 VALOUR, itself a smaller 4th generation tiltrotor.
“Their is a role for tiltrotor, but there is a difference between how the Marines use the V-22 and how the Army will use the FVL medium - it is a different mission set,” he said.
It is likely that the FVL medium utility aircraft will be fielded around 2030 with the attack version following, “maybe five years after that.” Due to the fact that it will take a long time for the government to replace all its BLACK HAWKs and APACHEs, it is still likely that the last APACHE helicopters will still be flying around 2060.
The road map for the development of the FVL’s mission system architecture indicates an expectation that the attack requirements will be more complex than the utility, and that is a main reason for the attack FVL be fielded later.
The evolution of the FVL requirement is now voiced in terms of capability sets, The heavier cargo variant, the replacement for the CH-47 (Capability Set 5)is not likely to be fully set in motion until 2050 although the concept is being discussed.
Shelton said that the government was applying relevant lessons learned from the Joint Strike Fighter programme (F-35) to the FVL programme, although did not detail what they were.
There is still a question about the input being received for potential users outside of the US Army. Shelton said that all interested services were participating to some extent in the consultation process. “We shall see in the near term how that will fall out,” he concluded.
Andrew Drwiega, Mesa, AZ
|The SB.1 DEFIANT will scale up to 32,000lbs and the eventual proposal aircraft will scale up bigger than that.|