An artist's rendering of the Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor. (Bell Helicopter)
WASHINGTON — The Joint Multi-Role (JMR) helicopter replacement program remains on track for a downselect before the end of this fiscal year — and the president of Bell Helicopter thinks the program could move up its overall timetable.
“We’re confident we’re going to be one of the two companies selected for that actual bill. We’ve set up the schedule as if we’re going to be successful,” John Garrison, Bell president and CEO, told reporters Tuesday morning at the Association of the United States Army conference. “We also believe that with the maturity of this technology, as we look forward, it doesn’t need to take to 2035 to bring this technology and capability to the marketplace.
“That’s the current schedule, but from a technology standpoint, we don’t believe [delivery in 2035] has to be the schedule going forward. So that’s another goal we have. We believe this can be shifted to the left. I know that sounds like a challenge in today’s budgetary environment, but you have to plan beyond the current crisis.”
The JMR program aims to replace the Army’s Apache and Black Hawk platforms by the mid 2030s. Four companies — Bell, Sikorsky, AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft — were awarded $6.5 million contracts this year to develop initial technology demonstrators. Two of those companies will be selected before the end of fiscal 2014, with a fly-off occurring in 2017.
Bell is showing a nearly full-scale mockup of its V-280 Valor design on the show floor this week. The fixed-engine tilt-rotor design can fit 11 passengers with four crew members.
The company is confident the Valor design will hit 280 knots with a 2,100 nautical-mile range, attributes that could make self-deployment a possibility — alongside potential reductions in logistics, Garrison said.
“It took eight main bases to support the aviation assets in Afghanistan,” Garrison said. “With this technology, we could do that [with just two bases]. So now you think about the force structure, all the soldiers required on the logistics side, now you begin to strip out all that infrastructure cost because you have a space/time continuum you’re dealing with, with speed. It’s not just going fast, it’s ‘what is the productivity’ in that flight hour.”
Garrison also sees a wide range of potential sales abroad.
“I believe that JMR will lead to FVL [Future Vertical Lift], and FVL will lead to the future of rotorcraft on a global basis, much the same way the Huey did and the Black Hawk did before it,” he said. “You will see an evolution of this type of technology in the future.
“So I think you look at the universe of the countries that operate Apaches and Black Hawks and Hueys today, and that’s the potential for the aircraft in the future.”■