The high lifting capacity of the 56-ft.-dia. rotors allows the helicopter to carry significant external loads, Gaffey says. As proposed, the aircraft weighs 27,000 lb. carrying 12 troops and four crew, versus 22,000 lb. for the UH-60M. But it can lift 13,000 lb. externally, versus 9,000 lb. for the Black Hawk. “It is more like a Chinook from a cargo standpoint,” he says.
One source of the lifting capacity is the engine power needed to go fast. To fly 200 kt. with the basic 4,300-lb. payload would require 3,100-shp engines, but the target of at least 230 kt. would need more than 4,600 shp. “In the hover, that's a lot of extra power, but a large part of the Black Hawk's mission is lifting heavy loads,” says Gaffey.
All the compound-helicopter candidates face the same problem. “The main issue with 230 kt. is the power in the aircraft. Bigger engines cost more and burn more fuel, but the side benefit is enormous lift margin,” he says. If the Army decides speed costs too much, AVX can remove the ducted fans. “Without fans, speed is in the 170-kt. range.”
AVX has assembled a large team of suppliers to build the aircraft, but why should the Army choose an outlier for such an important program? For Gaffey, it lies in the Army's edict that JMR bidders must show a “compelling need” to fly a demonstrator to reduce risk for FVL.
“We don't see any point in flying another tiltrotor. When there has already been the XV-15 and V-22, what is in Bell's V-280 that needs to fly?” asks Gaffey. “It's almost the same for the X2—they have flown it and it works. And the X3 has been flown by Eurocopter.
“In our case, the coaxial rotors and ducted fans need testing to verify the efficiencies,” he says. “The big manufacturers will probably continue on their own as long as FVL is on the horizon, so we are hoping the Army will keep the little guy in the program to provide a little competition.”