US Army next-generation rotorcraft continues to make steady progress
“Both Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky-Boeing are on track to begin flight demonstrations of the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstrator (TD) aircraft before the end of the year,” confirmed Dan Bailey, Programme Director, JMR TD, AMRDEC, US Army, in response to questions submitted by Mönch in January.
The two participants in the programme are Bell Helicopter with its V-280 VALOR third-generation tiltrotor and the Boeing/Sikorsky partnership with its SB>1 DEFIANT, based on Sikorsky’s X2 technology, coaxial main rotor design and rear pusher propeller. There will be two different variant, for attack as well as utility missions.
JMR is a precursor to the army’s quest to identify technologies relevant to how to proceed with a Future Vertical Lift (FVL) (Medium) rotorcraft. The resulting helicopter will replace the Sikorsky UH-60 BLACK HAWK and Boeing AH-64 APACHE fleets from around the mid-2030s. This is the first of four ‘Capability Sets’ (CS) of FVL vehicles: FVL started as four classes – Light, Medium, Heavy and Ultra.
The first of these new FVL sets is CS 3 which, according to Bailey, remains targeted for a 2030 fielding. Its list of mission options remains extensive: “The FVL CS3 air vehicle is intended to be a versatile medium lift air vehicle in the FVL Family of Systems (FoS), capable of conducting assault, urban security, attack, maritime interdiction, medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR), tactical resupply, direct action (DA), non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) and combat search and rescue (CSAR) operations in support of army and joint forces.”
The range of missions is wide since, although the programme is army-led, it is intended that platforms be offered for use by other services, to include the US Navy, USMC, USSOCOM, and even the Coast Guard (USCG). Bailey explained that, “the Requirements IPT is responsible for developing the FVL CS3 Capabilities Development Document (CDD). A validated and approved CDD is required at Milestone B to enter the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase, although this is several years away.”
The JMR TD In itself it is not an “either/or” competition, which Bailey was keen to stress when he addressed delegates at a briefing staged in September by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC. He stated: “It represented a growing programme of record leading up to an acquisition decision.”
It is also the first of a family of systems that will eventually replace all vertical lift capabilities.
The programme was officially initiated in 2011 and will end in 2020, with air vehicle demonstrations completing a year earlier. There are two separate events: the air vehicle demonstration and the mission system architecture study. Through industry partnership, “we know that we can do this affordably and efficiently,” he said.
The future operating environment requires the development of a new vertical lift platform unencumbered by the restrictions of traditionally designed rotorcraft, meaning the new platforms will need to perform unfettered by the limited physical perspectives of existing designs.
“After we did a capability-based assessment with the requirements community, we developed model performance specifications and gave it to industry and government, which have resulted in conceptual designs,” said Bailey.
The architecture is also very important. “The operating environment of the future is much more sub-system technology oriented. We need open system architecture,” said Bailey. “We are doing this in increasingly complex demonstrations during which we are experimenting and demonstrating various facets that get to open system characteristics. We want to give the FVL initial programme and future systems a set of standards, processes and tools – an implementation guide through S&T architecture.”
Bailey informed MT the programme is funded both by the US government and by industry participants, “through cost-sharing agreements negotiated with each participant. Government funding for the JMR TD programme is budgeted through FY20 but cannot be disclosed outside of the DoD and other government agencies directly involved in the defence planning and resource allocation process.”
However, the figure most often quoted for government investment in FY17 is around $55 million. Industry’s investment is proprietary and therefore undisclosed.
Subject matter experts from the Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) have been working together with industry in areas of the programme including flight controls, aeromechanics, experimental aerodynamics and drive systems. Technical exchanges throughout the programme work towards the support and execution of developmental testing. However, as Bailey stated: “The government’s primary role in JMR TD participation is to learn.”
The article continues with Pat Donnelly, Director of Future Vertical Lift at Boeing explaining the SB>1 DEFIANT; Vince Tobin, Vice President, Advanced Tiltrotor System, Bell Helicopter explaining the V-280 VALOR; and the maturation of Joint Common Architecture (JCA) and virtual integration processes and tools, and the development of a Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) conformant open system architecture definition using JCA; also Rockwell Collins‘ advanced system designs and integration processes for the Architecture Implementation Process Demonstration (AIPD) part of the JMR TD programme Mission Systems Architecture Demonstration (MSAD).
This is an excerpt of Andrew Drwiega’s article in MILITARY TECHNOLOGY #3/2017. The full version can be found in MILITARY TECHNOLOGY #3/2017, available at the 2017 AUSA ILW Global Force Symposium & Exposition.