January 28, 2013
Credit: Credit: Boeing
Graham Warwick Washington
Between them, they supply 80% of the U.S. Army's helicopters. Now Boeing and Sikorsky are teaming for the long haul in a bid to develop and produce advanced rotorcraft to replace those helicopters.
The companies will submit a joint proposal in early March for the first phase of the Army's Joint Multi-Role technology demonstration (JMR TD). But their teaming is a long-term commitment to pursue jointly the proposed follow-on Future Vertical Lift Medium (FVL-M) program to replace the Army's utility and attack helicopter fleets beginning in the 2030s.
FVL-M is the only new-development program on the horizon for a U.S. industry that is being kept in robust health, producing upgrades of existing platforms while being starved of the new programs needed to underwrite development of the next generation of advanced rotorcraft.
Boeing, Sikorsky and the Bell Boeing tiltrotor joint venture have been studying JMR demonstrator concepts separately under contracts from the Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD). Boeing's decision to team long-term with Sikorsky leaves Bell Helicopter on its own to pursue a tiltrotor solution for both JMR TD and FVL-M.
Boeing and Sikorsky have worked together on the Army's RAH-66 Comanche scout helicopter, which was canceled in 2004. “We will jointly pursue JMR TD Phase 1 and 2 . . . and use that as a springboard for FVL,” says Samir Mehta, president of Sikorsky Military Systems.
Phase 1 is focused on the air vehicle, with award of contracts for two demonstrators planned this fall, leading to first flights in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017. Phase 2, for the mission equipment package, is scheduled to begin in 2015. Leanne Caret, Boeing vice president and general manager for vertical lift, highlights the company's work on advanced flight controls and mission systems for the CH-47F and AH-64E.
Bell, meanwhile, says it “has made the strategic decision to lead the development of next-generation tiltrotor technology for the Army's Future Vertical Lift program.” The company is “exploring additional business relationships with a number of prospective partners and suppliers.”