US Army Eyes FVL to Provide New and Modernised Aircraft
Members of the Future Vertical Lift Panel at the virtual 2021 iteration of AUSA’s Global Force event on 17 March provided updates on relevant programme developments: MON’s report focuses on four activities, which will deliver new aircraft and modernised legacy aircraft to the US Army.
The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programme is developing a successor to the Bell OH-58 KIOWA scout helicopter. While Brig Gen Walter T Rugen, Director, Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, said FARA is the Army’s “number one [aviation] gap,” the programme completed its final design and readiness review last December – providing two design iterations. The service will provide another FARA requirement to industry next month, “the follow-on after the two design iterations that we have done with industry.” Rugen also focused on the broader, concurrent, rapidly-maturing FARA ‘ecosystem.’ In February, the Army reportedly completed “an over-water, 32km shot with a SPIKE NLOS [Non-Line-Of-Sight anti-tank missile from Rafael]. This showed the lethal reach we will have with many of our capabilities coming along.” A first prototype FARA flight is scheduled for first quarter FY2023.
Rugen further reported the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) programme is continuing “its’ significant, successful momentum.” This is the follow-on to Sikorsky’s UH-60 BLACK HAWK utility helicopter. The next major FLRAA request for proposal to industry is due this summer, with contract award envisioned for fourth quarter FY22.
On 2 March, the Army completed a Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) rodeo to further inform the decision to replace the 30-year-old RQ-7 SHADOW UAS. Vendors and their products included: Martin (V-BAT), Arcturus (JUMP 20), L3 Harris (FVR-90), and Textron/AAI (AEROSONDE). Rugen told conference viewers the service will “‘AROC [Army Requirements Oversight Council] that tactical UAS requirement document in the coming weeks.” Importantly, FTUAS is a replacement platform and is expected to be an agile ‘eye-in-the-sky’ connected to an entire digital ‘ecosystem of data-sharing FVL aircraft.
Beyond new airframes, the Army’s future force vision will modernise its ‘enduring force’ of AH-64E APACHEs and other aircraft, by backfitting new, FVL-developed technologies, through the evolving Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) effort.
Marty Kauchak Reporting for MON from New Orleans