The US Army's Future Vertical Lift program aims to replace the service's Black Hawk and Apache helicopters. (US Army)
WASHINGTON — Less than two weeks after announcing that it was pushing back the initial selection of the technology demonstrator phase of the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) helicopter program and working to forge a closer relationship with industry, the US Army awarded two development contracts for the effort on Tuesday.
The winning bidders were the team of Sikorsky and Boeing with their SB>1 Defiant medium-lift helicopter, and Textron’s Bell Helicopter, which submitted its V-280 Valor tiltrotor design to the Army.
In October, the Army provided initial funding to those two teams as well as competitors AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft to develop prototypes.
While AVX and Karem didn’t make the cut, Army officials have said they expect to harvest technologies from all four teams in their effort to replace the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters by the mid-2030s.
An industry meeting with all four bidders is slated for early September.
The Sikorsky-Boeing team submitted a proposal based on Sikorsky’s X2TM coaxial design that features counter-rotating rigid main rotor blades for vertical and forward flight.
Shelley Lavender, president of Boeing Military Aircraft, said in a statement that “as the original equipment manufacturers for both the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters,” the team brings “tremendous technological breadth and depth to the customer. I believe our technical capabilities and experience in development and flight testing of complex rotorcraft systems were a key factor in the customer’s decision.”
The JMR Technology Demonstration program is only the initial salvo in what will eventually become the Pentagon’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.
The Army plans to award a contract for the FVL program in 2019, and is looking toward an operational capability by the mid-2030s. ■