NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The U.S. Army has embarked on a study to consider a future heavy vertical lift aircraft, the director of Army Future Vertical Lift modernization told Defense News.

The service is years into developing and procuring other Future Vertical Lift aircraft, but is just starting to consider what it might want for the aircraft that would succeed the CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter. Indeed, the Army recently selected Textron’s Bell to build its Future Long Range Assault Aircraft and is conducting a competitive prototyping competition for a Future Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA. Both are expected to come online in the early 2030s.

When the Army began preparing over a decade ago for a family of FVL aircraft, it wanted an aircraft that could be somewhat scalable from light to heavy. The service opted to prioritize a medium-lift aircraft.

But the Army is now weighing its the heavy piece, even though the Chinook is slated to continue flying through the mid-2060s, or 100 years of service.

The service has initiated a study that it hopes to complete later this summer, Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen, the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team lead, said. The Army has hired a company to conduct the study, according to an Army spokesman.

Rugen said the study should determine how the Army will pursue the capability and deliver a potential timeline.

The spokesman noted the study will also consider how the Army could use its existing technology or capability.

The Army has been moving to address issues with the Chinook’s weight, upgrading the aircraft to give it more lift capability, including a new fuel system, electrical system and a stronger airframe.

However, the service has made it clear it does not want to buy the latest variant, the CH-47F Block II Chinook, for the active force so it can instead fund its FVL fleet. The Army has only fielded the variant in the form of the MH-47 G-model to U.S. Army Special Operations.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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