Thursday, December 2, 2021

Sikorsky-Boeing team to transform the operational landscape of future rotorcraft

The Sikorsky-Boeing team is promising to transform the operational landscape of future rotorcraft.

“The battlefield is undergoing an evolution,” the team said in a Twitter post Tuesday.

As noted by Sikorsky, the industry team of aerospace giants is to launch new platforms designed for tomorrow’s operational landscape.

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Companies say they are now in an era of all-digital design, spurred by modern technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, nanotechnology and robotics, which means today’s warfighter is encountering a dramatically shifting landscape. In order to maneuver effectively in this new environment, the U.S. Army is turning to a vision of future warfare known as joint all-domain operations (JADO) which seeks to meet adversaries across numerous domains in a simultaneous, coordinated action.

As the U.S. Army works to realize JADO, the change marks not just a shift in warfare itself, but in the operational landscape of rotorcraft and rotorcraft sustainment. Both of Sikorsky’s aircraft offerings for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) programs, including RAIDER X, Sikorsky’s offering for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and DEFIANT X, the Sikorsky-Boeing solution for the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), integrate revolutionary advances in sustainment building on two decades of investment in analytics and artificial intelligence by both Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin. This investment includes the development of over a hundred platform-agnostic, predictive-maintenance algorithms and the development of on-board maintenance diagnostics and prognostics that will enable both maintenance-free operating periods (MFOP) and increased operational availability in austere environments and lower life cycle costs.

“The operational requirements for military use of helicopters are changing and sustainment needs to change along with it,” says Tony Guarino, business development lead for Lockheed Martin.

“With the shift to a joint all-domain operating environment, the single, large-brigade sustainment model is moving towards distributed platoons across the theatres of action. Sustainment now needs to change with that paradigm and provide higher reliability, lower logistics footprints while embedding real-time prognostic and predictive maintenance decision points on the aircraft,” says John Steiner, senior program manager at Sikorsky.

To meet this paradigm shift, Lockheed Martin is taking lessons learned from programs like the F-35, CH-53K and S-92 aircraft to usher in a more predictable and manageable rotorcraft sustainment landscape. FVL promises to increase efficiency, reduce life cycle costs and accelerate the development-to-battlefield timeline.

From infrastructure to analytics, RAIDER X and DEFIANT X are designed to reduce maintenance and improve operating time on several fronts. First and foremost is the digital thread and 3D virtual environment, allowing maintenance teams to look “inside” aircraft with digital tools and models so that teams can provide maintenance on an as-needed basis instead of an inflexible time-based schedule.

“The Army’s legacy fleet uses a limited Health & Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) and the aircraft are sustained with limited information,” says Steiner. “RAIDER X and DEFIANT X will deliver much more actionable maintenance data, providing commanders with real-time information to accurately assess the health state of the weapon systems as well as the ability to self-diagnose maintenance and predict aircraft availability. That increases the operational readiness and availability while reducing life cycle costs associated with the platform.”

This condition-based maintenance approach taps an advanced health usage monitoring system that reduces the Soldier’s burden and enables maintenance teams to more easily understand the exact condition of a helicopter, ultimately providing the information that teams need to service rotorcraft more efficiently.

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Executive Editor

About this Author

Dylan Malyasov
U.S. defense journalist and commentator. Aviation photographer. Dylan leads Defence Blog's coverage of global military news, focusing on engineering and technology across the U.S. defense industry.

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