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Army Details Next-Gen Helicopter Timeline

by Kris Osborn on April 25, 2013

U.S. Army — Graphic Illustration of potential JMR configuration

U.S. Army officials plan to award up to four design contracts by the end of fiscal year 2013 for vendors to build the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) demonstrator aircraft, a next generation helicopter fleet, Army leaders said Thursday.

Current plans call for two JMR technology demonstrator aircraft to be designed and built for a first flight by sometime in 2017, said Todd Turner, director for the Army’s Research and Technology Air Portfolio.

“This is an S&T [Science and Technology] effort for the development of a new, medium-class platform. The goals are to design, fabricate and demonstrate an advanced vertical lift vehicle with a combat radius of 424 kilometers, that’s an 848 kilometer range, un-refueled, at speeds of up to 230 knots,” Turner said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 14th Annual Science & Engineering Technology Conference/Defense Tech Exposition, National Harbor, Md.

A key goal for the program is to be affordable, and develop an aircraft that can reach much greater speeds and extend mission possibilities without compromising an ability to hover, Turner said.

Army officials said the S&T effort is designed to lower risk, reduce costs and inform requirements for what will be a Future Vertical Lift formal program of record designed to deliver new aircraft by 2030.

“We’re currently completing what we call configuration trades and analysis portions of this effort which will finish this year. The trades we considered were cost, weight and power requirements, mission equipment packages and life-cycle costs.  All configurations were considered,” Turner said.

The configurations currently being examined include a tilt-rotor possibility, like today’s Marine Corps and Air Force V-22 Osprey as well as various compound configurations such as air vehicles with a rear-thrusting mechanism and co-axial rotorblades, Army officials explained.

The service is evaluating responses to an Army solicitation to industry to build designs. Service officials plan to down select to two design teams by the fourth quarter of fiscal year ’14, Turner said.

The JMR effort also plans to include next-generation mission equipment and avionics along with integrated sensors and weapons systems.

Turner said Army S&T is working on advanced rotor designs, autonomy algorithms and concept analyses wherein they assess air-vehicle design methods.

“We currently have a good handle on how to build systems when we have a database. What we are trying to do is move towards where we can design new systems at a more rapid pace. Get that design closer to what the air vehicle will look like, he said.

The FVL aircraft is slated to be powered by an Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), a more powerful, 3,000-horsepower, more fuel-efficient engine also being informed by an ongoing S&T Program, Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine effort.

“It’s transitioning out of S&T this year to the ITEP program. It’s showing benefits of 25-percent reduced burn rate and a 35-percent reduction in production and maintenance costs,” Turner said.

Army S&T is also in the early phases of developing the Future Affordable Turbine Engine, a 7,000-horsepower heavy class engine for larger rotary platforms such as the CH-47 Chinook.

“We’re developing material and component technologies for the compressor and turbine sub-systems,” he added.

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