It's still a long way in the future, but the US Army has canvassed industry ideas on potential configurations and technologies for the Joint Multi Role (JMR), a notional common platform to replace AH-64Ds and AH-1Zs, UH-60Ms and UH-1Ys, and MH-60R/Ss in the attack, reconnaissance, utility and cargo missions.
Companies were invited to to give individual briefings to an Army study team at Ft Rucker last week. Bell, Boeing and Sikorsky were there, as were Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Also invited to present their ideas were Baldwin Technology, Karem Aircraft and Piasecki Aircraft. By all accounts, the smaller firms were delighted at the chance to pitch their ideas. Baldwin even produced a video of a proposed armed version of its Mono Tiltrotor.
Video: Baldwin Technology
The JMR concept has been around for a while, and it's one of very few potential new programs for a rotorcraft industry increasingly starved of research and development funding. But JMR development is not planned to get under way before 2023 at the earliest, with the initial attack version to replace Block 3 Apaches beginning in 2030 and the utility version to replace M Upgrade Black Hawks after 2038. That's a long time to wait.
The JMR industry "session" was organisation by the Concepts and Requirements Directorate (CRD) of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Ft Rucker. The CRD is conducting a three-phase JMR aircraft analysis study. The nine-month first phase, to be completed in September, is evaluating the feasibility of combining multiple missions in a common platform.
In the absence of specific requirements for JMR, the CRD gave industry some advisory targets: vertical takeoff and landing capability from ships and unimproved sites; 6,000ft/95ºF hot-and-high capability; cruise speed exceeding 170kt with full mission payload; 424km mission radius with 2h on station for attack/recon missions and 0.5h for utility/cargo missions; autonomous capability for optionally manned operations; plus all the usual -ilities: survivability, reliability, affordability, etc.
The goal of the CRD's study is not yet clear to me. But a parallel Pentagon-directed future vertical lift capabilities-based assessment is trying to build the case for a significant R&D investment modelled on the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) effort that preceded the Joint Strike Fighter program. Perhaps the intent here is to create a JAST-like precursor to JMR that can help industry mature the required technologies ahead of a post-2020 development launch.