WASHINGTON — Textron’s Bell tapped GE Aerospace to develop a host of digital systems for its much-anticipated Black Hawk utility helicopter successor.

The arrangement, announced Sept. 7, will see GE Aerospace working on a common open-architecture digital backbone as well as a voice-and-data recorder and a health-awareness network that facilitates predictive maintenance for the Bell V-280 Valor. Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

The U.S. Army in December selected Bell’s tiltrotor aircraft over the Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant X for the multibillion-dollar Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft endeavor — described by service officials as among the largest and most complex competitive procurements. The Government Accountability Office later denied a formal protest, clearing a path for Bell production.

Amy Gowder, the president and CEO of defense and systems at GE Aerospace, said her team’s work will greatly improve “how aircraft are updated and maintained, and it ensures that our soldiers have an advantage on the battlefield.”

“By leveraging GE’s experience in delivering open avionics architecture, the Army will realize the benefits of modular open systems approach designs from the outset of the Future Vertical Lift programs,” she said in a statement. The FVL initiative aims to overhaul Army aviation, with particular focus paid to attack, transport and reconnaissance missions.

Prototypes from Bell are due to the Army by 2025. The initial contract obligation was $232 million, with a ceiling of $1.3 billion for additional options, Defense News reported.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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