The US Army has released a request for proposals for its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), its program to develop and advanced rotorcraft to initially augment and eventually replace the ubiquitous UH-60 Black Hawk in service.
DefenseNews has reported that, as expected, the RFP was released to two bidders – the Sikorsky/Boeing team which will offer the Defiant-X development of its SB>1 Defiant concept, and Bell which is developing the V-280 Valor tiltrotor design. Both teams have built demonstrator aircraft for the Army’s competitive demonstration and risk reduction (CDRR) effort, and have shown their ability to fly at speeds and ranges nearly twice that of the Black Hawk, both key metrics of FLRAA.
The two designs differ markedly. Bell has chosen to leverage its experience with the V-22 Osprey program with an aircraft with a fuselage, a short-span wing, and large prop-rotors mounted on engine nacelles on the wingtips. The Sikorsky/Boeing design has a coaxial main rotor and a pusher prop at the end of the tail boom.
A winner of the competition is expected to be announced in late 2022, and this will be followed by a two-year design review process, leading to the delivery of the first prototypes in mid-2025. Flight testing will commence in late 2025 and is scheduled to go for four years, with an initial operational capability (IOC) planned for 2030.
FLRAA is an element of the US Army’s wider Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program to refresh all of its rotorcraft capabilities. The other program running in parallel with FLRAA is the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) which will fill role vacated by the now retired OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, and several cancelled programs including the RAH-66 Comanche.