Projecting Long-Range Power and Payload

A&M had the chance to speak with the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team (FVL CFT), U.S. Army Futures Command, regarding current and forward-looking goals and focus areas for the future of Army helicopter capability.

From Armor & Mobility, March/April 2020

A&M: Provide brief backgrounder on Army requirements and current evolution on the first of five Capability Sets for FVL.

FVL CFT: Army Aviation leaders several years ago wisely invested in the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration Program to develop leap ahead vertical lift technologies. The JMR-TD efforts have successfully demonstrated significant capabilities culminating in FY19 with two flying tech-demonstrators; Bell V-280 Valor and Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1 Defiant. Both have received an extension to fly in FY20 with Valor reaching speeds of ~300 ktas and Defiant ~130 ktas. The knowledge learned from these technical demonstrators have informed requirements for FVL platforms allowing for accelerated development of Army Aviation’s next generation of future vertical lift aircraft.

A&M: From a medium-size assault/utility perspective, how will FVL provide greater offensive and transport capabilities for rapid zone entry/exit?

FVL CFT: Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) is the next generation Lift, Assault, and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) aircraft that integrates new technology, materials, and designs that increase speed, range and payload. The FLRAA (CS3) is intended to replace the UH-60. FLRAA will see increased speeds of more than twice the current fleet and endurance of up to three times the distances we’re capable of today. These increased capabilities will allow FVL to maintain vertical lift dominance over peer and near peer adversaries in all phases of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) and for FLRAA specifically in the exploitation phase.

A&M: From a long range advanced aircraft perspective, how does FVL design offer greater capability in increased endurance reconnaissance?

FVL CFT: Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) harnesses the technological design advancements in vertical lift bringing increased lethality, speed, agility, and survivability against our near-peer threats. As the aerial reconnaissance gap replacement, FARA will find, fix, and finish the enemy’s defensive systems through a robust family of aerial vehicles comprised of the FVL eco-system. Armed with advanced long range precision munitions and air launched effects, FARA will be fine-tuned for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition as an integral part of a Joint All-Domain force.

A&M: What are some current milestones (recently achieved/coming) for FVL going forward?

FVL CFT: Following a series highly successful experimentations/demonstrations firing Long Range Precision Munitions (LRPM) going 9 for 9 on Spike missile shots from a maneuvering AH64 at MDO relative altitudes of ~100’ AGL clearing terrain as high as 1600’ to hit targets at MDO relative distances as long as 32km day, night, and moving targets an Army Directed Requirement was developed to provide Spike as an interim Long Range Precision Munition (LRPM) capability to the force in FY23. Follow on LRPM developmental work begins in FY20 for a more permanent solution.

FLRAA Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction efforts for FY20 to reduce risk and inform the refinement of requirements and acquisition approach prior to the program of record scheduled to begin in FY22. The U.S. Army solicited for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction (CD&RR) via the Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium (AMTC) Other Transaction Authority (OTA). The CD&RR phase one is for delivery of an initial conceptual design to include all substantiating technical documentation to support the design, requirements decompositions, trade studies, and requirements feasibility with contract award anticipated by April 2020.

FARA Competitive Prototype efforts are underway with five industry partners submitting engineering designs for the future scout helicopter again under an OTA that will see two selected to continue on and build prototypes beginning in FY20 with a fly-off scheduled for FY23. These prototypes will provide the Army with critical data to determine the requirements for FARA and deliver capabilities to soldiers sooner rather than later. As senior leaders have recently commented, we’re going to “fly it before we buy it.”