Officials from both companies said the name represented the need to defy common technologies and purse a next generation solution to the Army’s helicopter fleet.
The Joint Multi-Role program is designed to replace the Army’s current fleet of Blackhawks, Apaches and Chinooks by the 2030s. Boeing and Sikorsky displayed a model of what their aircraft might look like at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington D.C. this week.
Army officials want a faster, more fuel-efficient helicopter that could cover a vastly larger mission area. This would increase the combat radius and also improve arrival times for rescues operations and medical evacuations.
A faster helicopter would decrease the need to at times forward position fuel and supplies for crews on longer or extended missions. A big part of the push is to engineer a new helicopter able to reach super high speeds while retaining an ability to hover, service officials explained.
So far, the Army has spent about $20 million on the effort, but plans to spend up to $217 million on air vehicle demonstration efforts and another $70 million on mission equipment technologies such as software, electronics and sensors.
While some of the requirements for the helicopter are still being determined, some early indications call for a high-speed helicopter that can travel at speeds between 170 and 300 knots. In addition, the specifications call for an air vehicle that can fly with a combat radius of 424 kilometers and hover with a full-load at what’s called high/hot conditions – 95-degrees Fahrenheit and altitudes of 6,000 feet.
The Army announced that four teams won $6.5 million contracts for the first development stage the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) initiative. Those four team include Team Defiant as well as Bell Helicpter and Textron as well as AVX Aircraft Co. and Karem Aircraft.
Bell and Textron had a model of their potential aircraft also on display at AUSA.