The U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) announcement of the award of four Technology Investment Agreements for the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstrator (TD) Phase 1 mark the next significant step toward the Army’s development of a new family of aircraft referred to as Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Family of Systems.
“Established in 2009 by the Secretary of Defense as a Joint effort to focus all DoD vertical lift capabilities and technology development by conducting a Capability Based Assessment and developing an S&T plan, Future Vertical Lift (FVL) is an initiative; not yet a solution,” the announcement explains. “In October 2011, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued the FVL Strategic Plan [The Future Vertical Lift Initiative: A Strategic Plan for United States Department of Defense Vertical Lift Aircraft] to outline a joint approach for the next generation vertical lift aircraft for all Military Services. The Strategic Plan provides a foundation for replacing the current fleet with advanced capability by shaping the development of vertical lift aircraft for the next 25 to 40 years. The Strategic Plan indicates that 80% of decision points for the DoD vertical lift fleet to either extend the life, retire, or replace with a new solution occur in the next 8-10 years. The JMR TD program is a Science and Technology demonstration intended to mitigate risk for the FVL development program through the testing of advanced technologies and efficient configurations.”
The JMR TD program is a Science and Technology demonstration intended to mitigate risk for the FVL development program through the testing of advanced technologies and efficient configurations.
“We must continue to push implementation of the FVL Strategic Plan which will positively impact Vertical Lift Aviation operations for the next 50+ years,” said Dr. William Lewis, Director of the AMRDEC’s Aviation Development Directorate. “Absolutely, that is what JMR is all about. As we understand the demonstrated technologies and the opportunities for future technologies, that will feed the desired and reasonable capabilities and requirements for the potential FVL solutions.”
Joint Multi-Role Contenders
AVX Aircraft Company had announced that their submission for the JMR TD had been selected as a “category one” proposal in early May, with negotiations then under way with the Army toward an expected mid-September announcement.
The JMR TD TIA awards were made to AVX Aircraft Company, Bell Helicopter, Karem Aircraft Inc., and Sikorsky Aircraft Company.
They described their proposal as offering “the capabilities the Army wants for the future fleet of utility and attack aircraft at a very attractive price,” adding that their proposed JMR design featured “entry doors on both sides of the fuselage as well as a large rear ramp for easy cargo handling. Additionally it has retractable landing gear and the attack variant carries all armaments stored inside until needed, which provides a ‘clean’ aerodynamic design.”
Bell Helicopter (a Textron company) has developed the V-280 “Valor” in response to JMR requirements. In early September of this year, the company announced that Lockheed Martin would join the “Valor” team, as the first of Bell Helicopter’s V-280 program tier one team members.
Karem Aircraft Company describes its specialties as “fixed and rotary wing aircraft prototyping, advanced design, and tilt-rotor transport aircraft.” Their JMR TD effort is expected to draw on the company’s experience with DoD programs like Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) and Joint Future Theater Lift (JFTL).
Sikorsky Aircraft Company and Boeing signed a teaming agreement earlier this year to submit a joint proposal for the JMR TD Phase 1 program, to build a demonstrator aircraft based on Sikorsky’s X2™ technology rotorcraft design.
The purpose of the JMR TD is to demonstrate an operationally representative mix of capabilities to investigate realistic design trades and enabling technologies.
“The Sikorsky-Boeing proposal will demonstrate how X2 Technology with counter-rotating coaxial main rotors and a pusher propeller, and advanced fly-by-wire system, will deliver efficient 230-knot cruise airspeed, improved hover efficiency, and weight optimized design in an affordable package,” said Samir Mehta, president of Sikorsky Military Systems. “By leveraging our proven design, we can offer the Army reduced risk, a 100-knot improvement in speed, a 60 percent improvement in combat radius and 50 percent better high-hot hover performance.”
The purpose of the JMR TD is to demonstrate an operationally representative mix of capabilities to investigate realistic design trades and enabling technologies. Emerging results from JMR TD Phase 1 will be used to inform the FVL effort regarding promising vehicle configurations, the maturity of enabling technologies, attainable performance and capabilities, and will highlight the affordable technical solutions required to achieve those capabilities. The JMR TD program is not building prototypes of the FVL solution nor a pre-selection program for FVL.
Over the next nine months the four industry teams will refine their initial designs and make preparations toward potentially building and flight-testing a demonstrator aircraft late in FY17.
Along with other science and technology efforts, the knowledge gained from the JMR TD program will help to inform and FVL solution.
“This is a critical risk reducing effort for FVL,” said Maj. Gen. William “Tim” Crosby, Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Aviation. “The operational benefits and changes will depend on the capabilities we can deliver to the war fighter with FVL. Improved speed, range, reliability, and survivability are critical goals that we will target. I am very proud of the accomplishments of our AMRDEC partners and the PEO Aviation team.”