The Army is set to award new contracts to advance its helicopter technology as it pursues a replacement for its aging Black Hawk.
The future long-range assault aircraft, also known as FLRAA, is being spearheaded by the Army's future vertical lift cross-functional team as part of the service's recently stood up Futures Command. Vertical lift is one of the Army's top three major modernization efforts.
Requirements for FLRAA are being informed by a precursor effort known as the joint multi-role technology demonstrator, or JMR-TD, which saw Bell and a Sikorsky-Boeing team develop two new aircraft, the V-280 Valor and the SB-1 Defiant, respectively.
"The technologies matured and demonstrated under JMR-TD, combined with numerous other Army efforts, informed the basis for the future long-range assault aircraft requirements," said Col. David Phillips, project manager for FLRAA at program executive office aviation.
In September the office released a request for white papers via the Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium for a risk reduction effort. The competitive demonstration and risk reduction phase will result in the downselect of two companies to "complete requirements derivation, trade-off analysis and preliminary conceptual with affordability. It wants to deliver the first system to warfighters in fiscal year 2030. That is a challenging benchmark, but it is achievable, Phillips said.
"The Army deliberately funded several FLRAA risk reduction efforts to ensure the Army has a full understanding of the risks, mitigation plans in place and effective tools to accelerate the FLRAA program," he said.
That includes the joint multi-role technology demonstrator and the competitive demonstration and risk reduction effort, he added. Both of those provide a comprehensive approach to reducing risk ahead of the FLRAA program of record to meet a first unit equipped in fiscal year 2030.
To drive down cost, the office is addressing lifecycle affordability, sustainability and maintainability early in the program, Phillips said.
"The FLRAA program is employing multiple strategies including ... cost reduction opportunities, use of a digital thread from design through sustainment and stochastic sustainment modeling," he said.
Congress recently approved an additional $75 million in the fiscal year 2020 budget for the program, Phillips noted. That money will support the acceleration of the FLRAA schedule, specifically funding a portion of the competitive...