- The US Army will downselect to two competitors for its Joint Multirole Technology Demonstrator programme in 2014
- It is unclear whether the follow-on programme, Future Vertical Lift, will involve development of one or two new airframes
The four contenders vying to build a prototype for the US Army's Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) will be pared to just two, according to defence executives bidding for the programme told
Speaking to IHS Jane's at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference in Washington, DC, on 21 October, the defence executives said the army will review design concepts being produced by the bidders in preparation for a downselect to two bidders in June 2014.
AVX Aircraft Company, Bell Helicopter, Karem Aircraft, and a partnership of Sikorsky Aircraft Company and Boeing are each creating conceptual designs under technology investment agreements established with the US Army in September. The winners will develop prototypes for flight testing in 2017.
The aim of JMR-TD is to develop technologies that will feed in to a concept known as 'Future Vertical Lift' (FVL): a futuristic vision that involves developing a vertical-lift aircraft with a broad remit covering both attack- and utility-helicopter missions. FVL is expected to replace both the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and the AH-64 Apache when it is finally fielded.
It is unclear at this point whether the army will want to build a single airframe, or perhaps two distinct platforms to fulfill the attack and utility missions, according to the executives. However, the four bidders are focusing on the development of vertical-lift designs that will fulfill just the utility helicopter role. In that context, the army has called for an airframe that can hover at 6,000 ft in 95-degree-fahrenheit weather.
After the two companies selected complete their flight test in 2017, the army will make a decision about which bidders will move into 'phase 2' development, during which missions systems will be developed, including software would will become clearer whether the FVL solution will be a single platform or two distinct airframes.
Two companies competing in JMR-TD were eager to display their technologies at the AUSA conference. The Sikorsky and Boeing team announced that their concept, based on Sikorsky's X2 prototype, has been named the 'Defiant'. The Defiant will be much larger than the X2 demonstrator, which is scalable to different weight classes depending on requirements, according to Boeing officials. The Defiant will draw on the X2's high-speed rigid rotor coaxial design.
Samir Mehta, president of Sikorsky Military Systems, told IHS Jane's that he believes the big advantage of the Defiant's X2-based technology is that it has demonstrated a 100 kt increase in speed capability over current helicopters while also maintaining manoeuvrability.
He also said he believes the teaming of Sikorsky with Boeing will provide an advantage, due to the two companies' background in building helicopters including the UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook respectively.
Meanwhile, Bell Helicopter, a subsidiary of Textron, unveiled a full-scale model of its JMR-TD concept, the V-280 Valor, at AUSA. Bell said it believed its airframe, a tilt rotor that draws on the V-22 Osprey, was best optimised for hovering and for high-speed missions.
One reason for conducting fuselage development ahead of mission systems work is to avoid the pitfalls of simultaneous development experienced under the army's defunct RAH-66 Comanche scout/light attack helicopter programme, defence executives said.
The army spent USD6.9 billion on that programme before cancelling it due to growing complexity, according to a 2004 IHS Jane's article on the programme.