Army leaders from both countries agreed to a “Future Vertical Lift Cooperative Program Feasibility Assessment project arrangement” to work together to “ensure interoperability between the two nations’ future rotorcraft aviation forces,” according to a statement from U.S. Army Futures Command, which is in charge of advancing Army modernization.
The U.S. Army has been aggressively pursuing FVL programs including a Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), a Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and Air-Launched Effects (ALE) while also pursuing a modular open systems architecture.
The service is poised to choose between Bell and a team of Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky and Boeing to build FLRAA this year. And Bell and Lockheed are again competing to build FARA prototypes expected to fly in 2023.
“The U.S. and U.K. have a long history of partnership and cooperation in Army aviation, and the FVL project arrangement is an important step in expanding that relationship into the next generation of vertical lift capability and employment in future coalition operations,” the statement said.
Through the agreement, the countries will share future aircraft requirements and program plans and “explore and analyze new concepts for the employment of coalition air power in the lower tier air domain, the air space where Army aviation typically operates,” the statement added.
The analysis will include opportunities to reduce cost, schedule and performance risk of FVL programs and will identify and improve areas where U.S. and U.K. rotorcraft can be interoperable or integrated.
The two countries will also look for areas where cooperation could enhance research, development, test and evaluation; production; sustainment; and follow-on development efforts, according to the statement. The analysis will consider risks associated with working together across the life cycle of the aircraft.
The information gathered will be part of the national decision-making process, the statement noted.
The agreement will also include development of plans for the U.K. to cooperate in future phases of the U.S. Defense Department’s FVL program.
The U.S. Army has conducted two rounds of a campaign of learning dubbed Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, including a joint experiment last fall.
This year, the service plans to incorporate allied nations — including the U.K. — into the massive joint experiment with a major emphasis on future vertical lift capability.
“Arrangements like these will ultimately improve our capabilities and strengthen our forces, focusing on joint lethality, survivability and reach, while ensuring affordability for both our countries‚” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen, who oversees Army FVL modernization, said in the statement.
“Our deep science and technology collaboration is an important element of this and makes us both more competitive,” Maj. Gen. James Bowder, the British Army’s Futures’ director, said in the statement. “Today’s agreement formalizes our cooperation to help determine the future direction of aviation in competition and conflict.”
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.