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Air Platforms

US Army-led Future Vertical Lift faces budget challenges

07 December 2016
The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, a participant on the Joint Multirole-Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD), a precursor to FVL, is to be powered by Honeywell's T55 engine. Source: Sikorsky-Boeing

US Army officials hope to accelerate the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) rotorcraft programme, but funding is already a challenge in the effort's first year.

FVL, a notional group of five rotorcraft classes (each referred to as a 'capability set'), is a new start programme in fiscal year 2017 (FY 2017), and there is unlikely to be an appropriated budget until March or April 2017 so the effort may already be held back.

The Bell V-280 is to use a General Electric T64 engine. The V-280 is also participating on JMR-TD. (Bell Helicopter)The Bell V-280 is to use a General Electric T64 engine. The V-280 is also participating on JMR-TD. (Bell Helicopter)

Under a so-called Continuing Resolution budget, which Congress is poised to pass to fund the government at last year's levels until a Republican-controlled White House and Congress are in office, has limited funding for the FVL programme, noted Richard Kretzschmar, the army's project manager for Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP)/FVL.

However, it does have some funding to conduct an analysis of alternatives (AOA) for the effort, so that will proceed as planned, Kretzschmar said during a 6 December event held by Defense One and the Association of the United States Army.

FVL is now in a 'materiel solutions analysis' phase during which an AOA is ongoing with the US Marine Corps (USMC) and US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to validate requirements for different capability sets, said Kretzschmar. Officials are considering medium-lift 'capability set III' - which is a utility aircraft for the army, utility/attack for the USMC, and deep penetration for SOCOM - and how that could be addressed with a common airframe.

A 'Milestone A' decision to begin technology development is slated for 2019, after which the government would select a yet unknown number of vendors for development contracts. The army expects to see at least some production by 2024, but would accelerate the programme if funding is available.

This would mean a request for proposals could emerge sometime during or after 2019, with system specifications for industry to design towards, including a better idea of weight and performance requirements.

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