June 10, 2013
If anyone was counting on European rotorcraft powerhouse Eurocopter, through EADS North America, acting as a counterweight to the teaming of Boeing and Sikorsky in pursuit of the U.S. Army's future vertical-lift requirements, it is time to think again.
On the eve of the Army inviting successful bidders to negotiate cost-sharing agreements to fly advanced rotorcraft in 2017, EADS withdrew its bid for the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstration. JMR is the precursor to the planned Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Medium program to replace the Army's Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks beginning in the mid-2030s.
EADS North America has withdrawn its proposal for the JMR Phase 1 air-vehicle demonstration to focus company resources on the service's Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) requirement, CEO Sean O'Keefe informed Assistant Secretary of the Army Heidi Shyu in a May 29 letter. O'Keefe said EADS had “painstakingly reviewed our resource needs . . . [and] determined that the Army's most urgent need and our most significant investment to date is for a competitive AAS platform.”
EADS North America was one of five known bidders for JMR Phase 1. The Army declines to say who received the nod, but Bell Helicopter and a Sikorsky-Boeing team confirm they have been selected.
Sikorsky-Boeing has “been invited by the U.S. Army to negotiate a Technology Investment Agreement (TIA) for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator Phase I program,” says the team, which proposed a 230-kt compound helicopter based on Sikorsky's X2 coaxial-rotor/pusher-propulsor configuration.
Suppliers of 80% of the Army's current helicopter fleet, Boeing and Sikorsky announced in January that they were teaming for JMR TD and FLV-M. Sikorsky is the lead for Phase 1. Boeing is heading the team's bid for the Phase 2 mission-system demonstration, which is running two years behind the air-vehicle program. At the time, they expected Eurocopter, through EADS, to be the strongest competitor for JMR/FVL.
Abandoned by V-22 partner Boeing, Bell proposed a 280-kt. tiltrotor and is assembling an industry team. Small Fort Worth-based AVX Aircraft says it has also been selected to negotiate a TIA, as a “Category 1 participant.” The company is proposing a 230-kt. coaxial-rotor/ducted-fan compound helicopter.