So industry is investing in the JMR program heavily to help the Army along in the science and technology phase at a time when there are very few new Army programs on the horizon.
A full-scale model of the Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor tilt-rotor is displayed Monday at AUSA.
Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff
Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin are developing a demonstrator using Bell-Boeing's V-22 tilt-rotor technology. The V280 Valor will be demonstrated in Amarillo, Texas.
"This is real. The aircraft is coming together now," Gehler told Defense News last week. "We've got all kinds of pieces and parts, different technologies and things that are yielding today and starting to flow to Amarillo."
A mock-up of Sikorsky-Boeing's coaxial helicopter, known as the SB-1 Defiant, for the Army's Joint Multi-Role Science and Technology Program sits on display Monday at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff
"It enables us, the Army, really to see and participate, as well as our subsystem teammates and partners around the world, to actually see this design in the 3-D environment and bring together their pieces, parts or subsystems designed in that same environment," Gehler said. This allows the whole team to talk daily and make changes as it becomes apparent, he added.
Over 150 service members, both Army and Marine Corps, have also had a chance to fly in the V280 flight simulator. "It's not a marketing simulator," Gehler said. "It's actually the design of where we are on flight control law. I think everybody is pretty much blown away when they get in there to see how maneuverable the aircraft is at low speeds, but also how quick and nimble it is," Gehler said.
Doug Shidler, the Sikorsky and Boeing program director for JMR technology development, told Defense News the program is going through critical design activities and the team is working on building long-lead materials and parts.
Sikorsky and Boeing are also building a propulsion system test bed used to shake down and integrate dynamic components like the engine, transmission, the rotor head and blades.
The program director emphasized that the team is investing "quite a bit" to ensure it brings a capability that is fast, and that is highly maneuverable at low speeds.
Combining the X2, Raider and Defiant programs, all using the same technology, the team is also demonstrating the scalability of the helicopter, Shidler noted, which is likely to be important to the Army as it looks to build a family of helicopters with similar but scalable components for light, medium and heavy-lift. The X2 technology demonstrated in 2010 was a 6,000-pound helicopter, Shidler noted, Raider is 11,000 pounds and Defiant will weigh 30,000 pounds.
Bell's Gehler said he believes the Army is "very committed to the science and technology phase right now because the level of investment is huge for them," but he added, industry is also investing nearly 5 to 1 on the Army's S&T investment dollars.
And the biggest hurdle in moving JMR into the FVL program of record is the budget. "Our competition is more about budgets and legacy fleets," he said.
"This air vehicle technology is ready now, we don't need to wait until 2030 or beyond," Gehler added. "We could begin development in a program right at the end of this development in 2019 and be in production in 2025 ... We can always spiral in additional Mission Equipment Packages as Moore's law changes, the cockpit pieces can always be upgraded."
And with all the technology development that is happening now, Gehler said he believes there's potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, when Future Vertical Lift comes online.
Last month, Richard Kretzschmar, who leads the Army's new Improved Turbine Engine and Future Vertical Lift program office, said if the JMR program goes well and FVL moves forward as planned, the future aircraft could reach low-rate initial production earlier than 2030.
But, he added, "The current notional schedule that the Army has put out, the initial operational capability in 3034 puts the program into a very long program. I think we've seen long programs be a target for being canceled, so we want to do whatever is possible to make sure that is not the case."
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.