WASHINGTON ― The U.S. and Dutch militaries signed an agreement Wednesday in the Netherlands to work together on future vertical lift programs, according to a statement from the U.S. Army.
FVL is a plan to design and manufacture a generation of helicopters ― and other low-tier aviation ― with the latest in technology and capabilities. Douglas Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said this agreement keeps the U.S. and its allies ahead of its adversaries.
“By working closely on our future efforts, we garner the greatest possible strength for the long-term advance of our mutual interest,” Bush said during the ceremony at Gilze-Rijen Air Force Base. “In today’s security environment, we must maintain superiority over determined adversaries by vastly increasing speed, range, lethality and survivability of our aviation platforms.”
The agreement allows the two countries to collaborate on aviation modernization. The U.S. Army has been intently pursuing FVL capabilities, which include Future Long-Range Attack (FLRAA) and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), as well as Future Unmanned Aerial Systems and other Department of Defense programs.
FVL is one of the top modernization priorities for Army Futures Command, which leads many of the service’s major program acquisitions. Over the next five years, the U.S. Army will spend $3.1 billion to develop FARA and $3.6 billion on FLRAA, according to fiscal year 2023 Army budget justification documents.
In February, the United Kingdom signed a similar agreement to examine how U.S. and U.K. aircraft could be more closely integrated. U.S. Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the FVL Cross-Functional Team at Army Futures Command, said such agreements allow for greater openness with vital allies.
“It allows us to talk concepts at sensitive levels,” Rugen said. “It allows us to talk requirements, and allows us to talk science and technologies.”
Last month, the Netherlands signed onto a memorandum of understanding with five other NATO allies ― Italy, France, Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom ― to commit $28 million for a Next-Generation Rotocraft Capability (NGRC) project. With many helicopters in the specified countries reaching the end of their expected life, the goal of the collective is focused on getting those aircraft replaced by 2035.
And there remains potential for future agreements on helicopter modernization and coordination, but no specific allies were mentioned during the press conference. Regardless, Bush said, this type of coordination among allies has proven valuable.
“We’ve seen the benefits for interoperability among our forces, especially in aviation,” Bush said. “Knowing that your ally on your flank has equipment every bit as good as yours, that they can operate day and night, in bad weather and that their tactics and training are similar to yours, is the key to successful military operations.”
Although more than 2,000 miles away, the invasion of Ukraine remained an issue during the signing. For a country the size of the Netherlands, Dutch Maj. Gen. Andre Steur said, maintaining strong relationships with allies militarily have become even more necessary for security.
“You can not have enough friends in the world we live in right now,” Steur said. “Not too long ago we were celebrating 75 years of peace in Europe, and now we have war in Europe. We have war at the eastern edges of the alliance, and I think it’s upon all of us to be able to counter future threats as one fighting force.”
Zamone “Z” Perez is an editorial fellow at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa, where he helped produce podcasts. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched humanitarian intervention and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.