U.S. Army officials said that the cost will be a critical factor in what is ultimately chosen for the replacement of dozen different helicopters in the joint inventory.
The Army plans to replace the currently UH-60 fleet under the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program which is just part of the biggest rotorcraft program in history, called the Future Vertical Lift (FVL).
FLRAA will provide the Army and Joint Force with an advanced vertical lift aircraft that possesses advanced technologies to support MDO from 2030 and beyond.
In 2014, the Army selected the Bell and Sikorsky-Boeing teams to continue the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) to flight demonstration proving out transformational vertical lift capabilities while burning down risk for FVL efforts.
“FLRAA will see significant improvements in reach,” said Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team director. “Reach is defined as speed, range, and endurance at range and we expect to see two and three times the reach with FLRAA over our current fleet,” he added.
Flying at twice the speed and three times the range of the current UH-60 fleet, FLRAA will provide transformational advances in terms of lethality and survivability in Multi Domain Operations with significantly enhanced air assault and aero medevac capabilities. These advancements will prove critical for Army operations in a theater like the Indo-Pacific where the dominant geographical feature is water and yet land forces remain the predominant military force in the majority of nations in the region.
The Army plans to publish requirements informed by the JMR-TD activities in a request for proposals to industry for the FLRAA program by the summer of fiscal year 2021.
Army officials also stressed that affordability is a critical element of the FLRAA program with operating and support costs estimated to be approximately 68% of the overall lifecycle costs.
“We’re taking what we’ve learned through JMR-TD and baking those lessons into our requirements to drive down operating and support costs of the aircraft,” Rugen said.
“Cost matters, performance matters and schedule matters. We say that, but it really does,” the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. James C. McConville also noted, “And ultimately, winning matters.”