On 29 April, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Aviation Development Directorate has confirmed that Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Competitive program progresses ahead of schedule.
As part of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift modernization priority, the competition to design, build, and test the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Competitive Prototype is progressing ahead of schedule and exceeding expectations along the way.
The FARA CP program falls under U.S. Army Futures Command and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Aviation Development Directorate.
Out of eight proposals, five Other Transaction Authority for Prototype agreements were awarded April 23, well ahead of schedule.
“FARA represents the leap-ahead technology we’ve been talking about,” said Col. Craig Alia, Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team chief of staff. “It’s a critical program in that it fills an existing capability gap created by the divestiture of the OH-58.”
Dan Bailey, CCDC AvMC ADD, is the FARA CP program manager and responsible for the planning and execution of the program to maintain cost, schedule, and performance. He touted the fact that, though the FARA CP solicitation was publicly announced in late 2018 with anticipated awards in June 2019, the already aggressive timeline was beaten by two months.
“What’s exciting about the new process the Army has put in place through the Army Futures Command and cross-functional teams … is that we’ve gone from concept … to awards in basically a one-year period of time,” said Bailey who, as the program manager, heads the effort to execute the FARA CP effort on the FVL CFT’s behalf.
In that timeframe, the program went from developing an approved set of requirements, using an innovative approach to contracting, to building industry partnerships and having industry propose a plan and a solution, rigorously evaluating those plans, and proceeding through negotiations to get to the point where awards could be issued. “That’s typically a two-, three-year or more process,” he added.
The mandatory requirements included integration of government-furnished equipment: engine, gun and rocket launcher, a minimum speed, specific target gross weight, a maximum 40-foot diameter rotor, and an affordability goal. Range, endurance, and payload were among the desired requirements that provided industry trade space for their specific design. Apart from those mandates, the timing of the execution plan, funding profile requirements, acceptable risk level, statute requirements and the potential of executing the entire program all the way through field capability by 2028 were also examined.
“Using the OTA capability authority … has given us lots of flexibility and made us more responsive to the timelines that the CFTs have driven us to in terms of getting a contracting capability in place to meet their specific requirements,” said Joe Giunta, U.S. Army Contracting Command – Redstone senior contracting official. “There’s many moving parts across ACC and the support of the CFTs is ACC’s number one priority,” he explained, adding that both Maj. Gen. Paul Pardew, ACC commander, and Gen. Gustave Perna, U.S. Army Materiel Command commanding general, also directed these priorities.
“We’re at an inflection point where we can’t afford not to modernize,” said Alia, echoing a sentiment he said is often expressed by his boss, Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, FVL CFT director. “We know that the current fleet is fantastic and has done a great job for us, but we can’t indefinitely continue to incrementally improve 1970s and 1980s technology,” Alia said.
The awards were made about six months after the initial solicitation went out in October 2018. Bailey explained that there is a phased approach to the execution of the program. The first phase is for the initial designs that will be provided by February 2020. “Those are designs of the aircraft, updated plan to execute the entire approach and risk assessments of proceeding, followed by another evaluation process,” the FARA CP program manager said.
But what is key, Bailey said, is that the five vendors know only two of them will make it into the next phase. “The awards made this week were not just for phase one; it was for the entire execution all the way through flight test on these vehicles” he explained. “We looked at all aspects of being able to execute, not only the CP effort through flight test in 2023, but also their ability to execute an (engineering manufacturing and development) phase follow-on and a production phase afterward,” Bailey explained.
Giunta reiterated the flexibility of the OTA that allows the government to move forward or slow down as necessary without having to amend the contract. “We only make awards based on their progress as observed by the government,” he said. “There are defined milestones. If those milestones are hit early and the government is satisfied with those milestones, the program can proceed quicker than what was anticipated.”
“This is a true team effort,” Alia said. “Everyone recognizes it’s not business as usual and the total Army team recognizes that, which is why we’ve been able to move so quickly.”
Alia attributes the success of this effort to the expertise and professionalism of Bailey as the program manager, of ACC, and leadership and focus of Army Futures Command. “With this team effort, we think we’re going to continue to meet milestones, continue to knock down obstacles, and … every opportunity we have we’re going to look to accelerate.”