Following a successful Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR TD) program which saw Bell and a teaming of Sikorsky and Boeing both successfully field Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) contenders, both companies have been awarded contracts by the US Army for a competitive demonstration and risk reduction effort (CDRR) to further develop their aircraft.
Bell’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor and Sikorsky/Boeing’s SB>1 Defiant coaxial rotor aircraft have successfully demonstrated their low and intermediate speed flight envelopes over more than a hundred hours of flight testing in the past two years. While they are two quite different solutions, both are positioning for the massive FLRAA requirement to replace large numbers of US Army UH-60 Black Hawks from 2030 under that service’s wider Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.
“These agreements are an important milestone for FLRAA,” US Army aviation program executive officer, Patrick Mason the said in a March 16 statement. “The CD&RR continues to transition technologies from the JMR-TD effort to the FLRAA weapons system design.
“We will be conducting analysis to refine the requirements, conceptual designs, and acquisition approach,” he added. “Ultimately, this information and industry feedback are vital to understanding the performance, cost, affordability, schedule risks and trades needed to successfully execute the FLRAA program.”
Complementing FLRAA under the acronym-rich FVL program is the future armed reconnaissance aircraft (FARA) which will fill the capability void left by the cancellation of the RAH-66 Comanche and the retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with a new dedicated armed reconnaissance helicopter.
Five FARA design contracts were awarded in April 2019 to Bell, Sikorsky, Boeing, AVX/L3Harris, and Karem/Northrop Grumman, and these designs are expected to be shortlisted to two proposals for a demonstration phase by mid-2020.