Army Picks Firms to Build Future Helicopter

Army Picks Firms to Build Future Helicopter

The U.S. Army has picked two industry teams to move forward with development of futuristic rotorcraft, signaling it plans to pursue both coaxial and tilt-rotor designs for now, the companies announced on Tuesday.

The service selected a team led by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., part of United Technologies Corp., and Boeing Co. to build a helicopter for the first phase of the Joint Multi-Role technology demonstrator program, according to a statement. The firms partnered to develop the SB>1 Defiant, a medium-lift chopper based on Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design and expected to fly for the first time in 2017.

The technology “will provide the best future vertical lift solution to the U.S. Army, and the flexibility of our design makes it suited for naval applications as well,” Mick Maurer, Sikorsky’s president, said in the press release. “This is a major leap forward.”

A spokeswoman for Boeing said the company was informed of the Army’s decision on Monday. “Our team brings leadership and new ways of thinking to aircraft development,” Shelley Lavender, president of Boeing’s military aircraft segment, said in the statement.

Another team led by Textron Inc.‘s Bell Helicopter was also selected to continuing developing its new, tilt-rotor concept called the Bell V-280 Valor and fly a prototype of the aircraft, a company official said. Bell is working with Lockheed Martin Corp. and other firms to develop the technology.

“The aircraft can provide the military with unmatched range, speed and payload capabilities, and is designed with operational agility in mind to provide our soldiers transformational reach and revolutionary capability on the battlefield,” Keith Flail, program director for the Bell V-280 Valor, said in a statement. “The clean-sheet design of the Bell V-280 Valor creates the capability to fly twice the range at double the speed of any existing helicopter.”

Bell V-280 aircraft rendering

Bell makes the Army’s OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter, among others, and partnered with Boeing to develop and build the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which is flown by the Marine Corps and Air Force. But the companies pursued a different teaming arrangement for the Army’s next-generation helicopter program.

Despite automatic budget cuts, the Army is trying to protect research and development funding to design future chopers that fly twice as far as today’s models and with better fuel efficiency.

The development effort could lead to a potentially $100 billion so-called Future Vertical Lift program to place the service’s fleets of  UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters made by Sikorsky and AH-64 Apache attack choppers made by Boeing, though the aircraft probably wouldn’t enter service until the 2030s.

The Army had planned to select two firms or teams to continue development of JMR designs. By choosing the Sikorsky-Boeing team and Bell, the service appears to have placed its bets on proposals from bigger, more established contractors over competing ideas from the smaller, closely held firms AVX Aircraft Co. and Karem Aircraft Inc.

Mike Cox, a spokesman for AVX Aircraft, said the company is still in negotiations with the Army. “We believe we are going to continue with some level of work, though I can’t tell you how much that is,” he said in a telephone interview.

Bill Crawford, a spokesman for the Army’s Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center in Alabama, didn’t confirm the down-select and said the service is still in talks with contractors. “The Army will make a formal announcement regarding the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator in late August,” he said in an e-mail. “The Army and the four industry teams are currently in negotiations. AMRDEC will make the announcement once these negotiations have been finalized.”

(Story was updated to include details of potential successor program in 9th paragraph and quotes from Army official in 11th paragraph.)

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This future helicopter sounds interesting, but when I see phrases like, “best future vertical lift solution”, and “fly twice as far as today’s models and with better fuel efficiency”, with no mention of how they’re going to implement cost controls or affordability on this development program, I predict we’ll see cost and schedule overruns and ultimately another hugely expensive program that the Army will eventually complain they cannot afford. And yes Dfens, Sikorsky will probably be at no risk to themselves under some sort of ‘cost reimbursable’ type of contract, all the while raking in significant profit. How many times do we have to watch this same movie?

While this will bring interesting look into furniture helicopters don’t count your chickens before they roost Sequestration may end any chance of adoption before 2020.

If the prototypes fly by 2017, you would be lucking to get a down select by 2019 and a production version much before 2025, even without sequestration. I would expect 2030 to be a more realistic timeline.

And, there’s the whole thing that this is a “technology demonstrator” program that will fly between 2017–19, and that there is no “down select”.

Didn’t we go through all of this with the RAH-66 Comache project?

While partnerships are a necessity in todays marketplace I wonder why the author found it pertinent to point out Sikorsky/Boeing collaboration, while leaving out that Bell has decided to partner with Lockheed. You would think this would be as key of an alliance. While Bell teamed up with Lockheed well after they had their mock-up full scale and design maturation, I think some further facts would make this a bit better piece of journalism.

Nothing deliberate: The Sikorsky-Boeing press release included the names of both companies (both released the same document), while the Sikorsky statement didn’t specify its Lockheed partnership. But I’ll go ahead and update the story to note this.

Thank you for the follow up Brendan, appreciate the update. Have a good evening. Just to reitirate it should be Sikorsky/Boeing — Bell/Lockheed.

Also, while I know this may be a bit off topic… but does can anyone shine light as to why Bell is designating the Jet Ranger X the Bell 505 since it only has two blades? Outside of the Bell 47 and Bell 901 (aka V-22) I believe Bell has always followed the formula of the first number in the model designation being the number of blades on said aircraft. Was just curious if anyone knew anything… I’ve searched low and high and have yet to find anything.

Sikorsky has developed and flow this Helicopter already, using their own money. They are ahead of the curve on this technology. They are under budget and ahead of schedule on the next generation heavy life helicopter for the USMC. so only talk about what you know.

So your logic is that because one previous helicopter program failed we should never try to develop a new helicopter, ever? Yeah that makes a lot of sense

Everything you have stated is false.
The Sikorsky/Boeing “Defiant” has never flown, it’s development will be funded by the JMR-TD contract announced here.
Sikorsky and partners did fund & build/fly the Sikorsky X2 experimental compound helicopter. This is not that a/c
Sikorsky and partners are funding & building their “S-97 Raider” on their own. It has not yet flown. And, this is not that a/c.
The CH-53K project is in fact behind schedule. It was intended to execute it’s initial flight this year, that has been delayed until sometime next year due to problems with the transmission system and gear box. This was reported a month ago.

“How many times do we have to watch this same movie?“
What do have in mind ?

If the Army manages this program like the RAH-66 and Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter programs the only winner will be the contractors and the Army will have nothing to show after wasting billions of tax payer dollars!

While I’m as much in favor of developing new technology and improving the platforms our troops use as the next aviation enthusiast, at some point affordability needs to be factored into the equation. We simply cannot sustain a doubling or tripling of unit price for each new generation of aircraft.

This responsibility rests with the people who set the requirements for the new helos. They need to temper their desire for large leaps in performance through high tech development (which can be costly) with more modest improvements (which are generally more affordable). Granted, it’s not an easy balancing act. The contractors can help by being forthcoming about the true risks of development.

Yes and no. It was one awesome flying machine to be sure. There are a few of them remaining on display at various Army bases in America.

The cancellation of the program led to the development of both the A-10 and the AH-64.

The trouble with the Cheyenne was that is attacked like a dive bomber.

Not such a good idea when your primary offensive strategy takes you right into the ideal engagement envelope of every Soviet AAA made at the time and since.

XV-3 to V-22, Cheyanne, Comanche, ARH. Nice to know that we will continue to develop junk over having troops in uniform. Glad that we live in a peaceful world and have more than enough money to spend.

This is the second posting of this. So if Military​.com enjoys Censorship and are afraid of words, delete it again!

The informal blade number paradigm for model designation was trumped by marketing.

Actually, speaking of what you know…
1. Sikorsky is over budget and late with the CH-53K
2. Flying a 7000lb single seat demonstrator proves little about the performance and feasibility of a rotor system for a 30,000lb version of the design.

While I completely agree with you, I think this explains pretty well how we ended up where we are now with all of the risk of development being shouldered by the US taxpayer:

“A startling new political science study concludes that corporate interests and mega wealthy individuals control U.S. policy to such a degree that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” — http://​www​.breitbart​.com/​B​i​g​-​G​o​v​e​r​n​m​e​n​t​/​2​0​1​4​/​0​8/1

It is pretty clear that democracy has failed.

Your mistake is that you see the military as a force to keep this nation safe. In reality, it is simply a welfare system for the very rich. Once you set your expectations appropriately, you will no longer be disappointed.

Why didn’t you say that in the first place?

Amen! …a bad movie as well.

Actually, –53K was supposed to fly two years ago.

I bet on tilt-rotor. It took a while for the V22 to get to where it is today, but it is indesputable that the USMC love it, and cant get enough of it. Even USAF wants more. Something must be right. If the Army is looking for speed, they do not need to ivest in coaxial rotor research, the speed, range, and manouverability is there with the tilt rotor.

Man oh man oh man!.…I just wait and see how the next generation chopper work. According to some of these posts, the Army is danged if they do, and danged if they don’t. Some people just can’t be satisfied no matter what you do.

Answer me this, why would the contractors divulge that information?

Naivety would suggest scruples might prompt some level of honesty, but alas, I admit, more often than not, greed overwhelms such quaint yet noble notions. However, ‘past performance’ is a grading criteria in source selections, so if company A has demonstrated minimal cost growth compared to company B’s large cost growth, company A would be rated more favorably, all other considerations being equal. That is the realistic carrot.

Yeah, that “carrot” has been in place for 20 years and yet it somehow doesn’t seem nearly as interesting as the financial incentive to f up and drag development programs out for decades and to jack the cost of weapons out of sight.

Yeah, some people think the Army should develop new weapons without ripping the US taxpayer a new ass hole. They are so damn hard to please.

It didn’t fail. It was wildly successful, in fact.

The Army started funding tilt rotor back in 1953 and then backed out just before the V-22 became operational. The Navy and Corps picked it up and finished the job.

And now the Army wants to talk about Quad-tilt rotor as the new heavy lift platform.

Someone needs to be told “NO” you didn’t manage your past projects properly. Make do like the Corps has done with november model Hueys and improved Cobras.

Except the 525 does have 5 blades.

maybe original 505 design concept had five blades, then reworked to two? Cut costs by using 206 rotor system

While I originally thought this might have been the case… from the get go the JRX was meant as a direct competitor to the R-66 and the push from day one was to get the price tag to under $1 million per copy… so I would have to assume the 206 drivetrain/mast/blades were original to the design from day one. I don’t know why this nomenclature is bugging the hell out of me, but figured if I could find a thread full of a few rotor-heads that I would pop the question. I guess LoSul might be onto something.. and when it comes to marketing nothing has to make any sense whatsoever.

But in reality the corps is making due with “Zulu” models which are nothing like “November” models…

have you tried asking? http://​bellhelicopter​.com/​e​n​_​U​S​/​C​o​n​t​a​c​t​U​s​/​F​e​e​d​bac

No, but I will check it out.. thanks.

Glad they went with American Companies!!

Which is how we got into trouble with the JSF, considering the significant differences between X-35 and F-35[ABC] variants.

It’s worth noting that as AAFSS continued that they procured an interim design: the AH-1 Cobra.

Contrast to today where no backup plans are allowed.

It is obvisous that a Huey is not a Cobra.


It seems to me this article is talking about going forward with the manufacturers Sikorsky/Boeing developing an advanced helicopter and Bell/Lockheed Martin an advanced tilt rotor aircraft. Where’s the competition and why is the army providing the money? Shouldn’t the army just put out the requirements and the manufacturers produce the concept? Maybe that is why the military budget is so ‘high’ to much free development money going out and not enough risk by the manufacturers.

The government has created the situation where they have to fund a certain portion of the R and D for new expensive equipment by leaving a history of abandonment in their wake. If you were a manufacturer would you answer the call, at your own expense, if there was a good chance that the DOD or Congress or both would pull the plug on you before you had a chance to even recover your start up cost? I certainly wouldn’t.

The tilt rotor is likely to be significantly heavier and more expensive. Besides the tilt rotor is probably less survivable. If one engine is hit it is toast.

They should seek more speed but at relatively low cost, otherwise it’s not worth it for a mass produced aircraft to replace helicopters.

The tilt rotor has to make a compromise between lift and forward speed. The bigger the rotors, the more lift they will produce, but the slower the vehicle will go in forward flight. These pusher powered helicopters don’t have to make that trade. The only speed limiting feature is the tips of the rotor on the forward swing going supersonic.

From what I remember the tilt rotors feed power between each other and even if that goes out they can still glide down like a plane.

True, but I would be willing to bet that if either design is significantly better than the UH-60, there will be a big push to adopt it as a replacement. Not that it would happen, but there would be a push.

AH-1Z and UH-1Y are not the same, but according to info at the link below, the AH-1Z and UH-1Y share “85 Percent Commonality of Maintenance-significant Components”, to include:

• Integrated Digital Cockpit
• 100 percent identical software configuration with an upgradable
common software interface and mission planning system
• Active & Passive Countermeasures
• Optimized TopOwl Helmet Mounted System Display (HMSD)
• Advanced Memory Unit (AMU) with Common Mission Loading/
Maintenance Data Extraction
• Common Drive Train
– Composite Rotor System
– Main Transmission
– Intermediate and Tail Rotor Gearbox
• Redundant Hydraulic Systems
• Electrical System
• 4-Bladed Pusher Tail Rotor
• 4-Bladed Composite Main Rotor
• Fire Extinguishing System
• Flight Control Servos
• Oil Cooling System
• T700-401C Engines
• IR Suppressors
• Battery & Auxiliary Power Unit

At least the tech in the Comanche seemed to have been used in other black programs, case in point are the stealth hawks used in the OBL raid

If the remember correctly the whole point of this v-280 was a “cheaper/simplified” design than the v-22. The question now is the tactical/strategic employment and fuel/maintainace savings vs. pusher prop design.

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