December 03, 2012
Credit: Credit: Bell Helicopter Concept
Graham Warwick Washington
As it draws up requirements for an advanced rotorcraft to replace its Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks after 2030, the U.S. Army wants to demonstrate configurations capable of speeds up to 230 kt.—50% faster than today's helicopters.
The Army's initial requirements for the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Medium utility rotorcraft call for speed in excess of 170 kt.—still faster than current helicopters. But its Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) plans to focus the upcoming Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstration (TD) on the 230-kt. target.
The FVL Medium model performance specification (MPS) now being finalized with inputs from government and industry configuration trade studies “reflects what we think would describe the aircraft if we snapped a line today,” says Ned Chase, AATD's JMR TD program manager. “It's a reasonable place to start.”
The “singular difference” between the model performance specification and AATD's science and technology (S&T) plan is speed, says Chase. That is because the Army has already invested heavily in conventional helicopter technology. The JMR TD program is an opportunity to balance the portfolio by investing in high-speed rotorcraft so a wider range of options will be available when FVL Medium begins around 2020.
“We have an MPS to provide an overarching description of the next-gen aircraft. It is intended to reflect the thinking of the requirements community across the Defense Dept., and their view is still 170-kt.-plus,” says Chase. “[But] we want 230 kt.”
Configuration studies by AVX Aircraft, Bell Boeing, Boeing and Sikorsky, as well as a government team, will be completed in the next 2-3 months. But results so far suggest only a compound helicopter or tiltrotor can meet the FVL Medium requirements. The analyses point to a 30,000-lb. gross-weight aircraft, down from the original 40,000-lb. estimate, but heavier than today's Black Hawk at 22,000 lb.
Under Phase 1 of the JMR TD, AATD plans to issue a broad agency announcement in early January calling for proposals to build demonstrator aircraft to fly in 2017. “We expect a compound or tiltrotor, but there may be others,” says Chase. AATD has funds for two demonstrators.