HomeDSJ Exclusive - Five ThingsDefense Industry CalendarDefense Systems ResourcesDSJ @ ConferenceDSJ DownrangeDSJ and UASContact DSJ


Army outlines FVL and JMR Focus

AUSA Winter, Huntsville, Alabama

February 2014

Dan Bailey, the newly-minted lead of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role / Future Vertical Lift (JMR/FVL) initiatives, gave reporters an update on the Army’s plans for “the next 100 years” of rotary wing aviation during the final day of the Association of the U.S. Army’s Winter Symposium and Exposition.

Bailey, a recently retired Army Lt. Colonel, former Apache pilot and Apache Block III Product Manager, sought to dispel what he described as misperceptions about these two distinct, but related rotary wing initiatives.

Future Vertical Lift

The Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program is a DoD-mandated, Army-managed initiative to design and field multi-role replacements for thousands of existing helicopters across the Department.  DoD and the Army envision the fielding over the next several decades of a Future Vertical Lift Family of Systems with high system commonality in four size classes: Light, Medium, Heavy, and the Ultra (C-130 size). 

FVL is placing priority on containing unit acquisition costs, but even more on reduction in life cycle costs, which presently account for 70% of total system cost.  The program office is consulting with the Rand Corporation and the F-35 program office to avoid the mistakes that have plagued past large, joint-Service, multi-mission programs.

Bailey underscored that the nearest term FVL priority – the mission “hanging over our heads” -- is to field a replacement for the “medium” fleet of H-60 (Blackhawk) helicopters deployed across the Military Services.  While the age and modernity of these platforms vary, the systems are generally viewed as beginning to face obsolescence in 2030. 

Some 55 system requirements for this “medium” class have been outlined in a recently promulgated Future Vertical Lift Family of Systems Initial Capability Document (ICD) and include the ability of the helicopter to fly at speeds of up to 230 knots (a speed stipulating tiltrotor or compound rotor designs) and to perform in high/hot (6000 feet / 95F degrees) conditions. 

Bailey notes that the current schedule for development of this next-generation FVL Medium helicopter concept is as follows:

o   August 2015-- Materiel Development Decision

o   2016-17 – FVL Analysis of Alternatives (AoA)

o   2018 -- Milestone A (Initiation of Program of Record)

o   2020 – Award for System Design & Development (SDD)

o   2025 – Award for Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD)

o   2030 – Award for Production

Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD) Program

The Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD) program, which might be viewed as preliminary concept stage of the FVL, is an Army Science & Technology (S&T) program focused in two key areas: (a) Air Vehicle demonstration; and (b) Mission Systems Architecture demonstrations. 

The Army notes that the purpose of the JMR-TD is to demonstrate an operationally representative mix of capabilities to investigate realistic design trades and enabling technologies. Emerging results from the JMR-TD efforts will be used to inform the FVL effort regarding promising vehicle configurations, the maturity of enabling technologies, attainable performance and capabilities, and highlight the affordable technical solutions required to achieve those capabilities.

Bailey notes that under the Air Vehicle Demonstration program four vendors (AVX Aircraft, Bell Helicopter, Karem Aircraft, and Sikorsky) were selected from nine submissions to develop air vehicle designs under unique nine-month Technology Investment Agreements with the Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC). 

The four contractors are completing their final designs and the JMR Program Office – working closely with helicopter SMEs from each of the Services, NASA, academia and industry -- will soon begin design reviews.  The Program Office plans to undertake in June design and risk reviews and will make decisions on future Army investments that will likely result in two of the contractor design teams being funded to construct two air vehicles and to fly them in 2017.  Mr. Bailey cautions both that this is “not a downselect” and that these air vehicles will not be traditional “prototypes” but rather “Frankenstein aircraft.” 

Under the Mission Systems Architecture Demonstration, the Army is seeking to develop a robust, affordable, architecture for the FVL aircraft that will insure the systems are easy to upgrade and fully open for the integration of new technology under the name of Joint Common Architecture (JCA).  Two vendors will be chosen to develop mission systems architecture designs for concept validation and standard maturiry.

High Priority in an Austere Environment

In closing, Bailey asserts that, while the FVL and JMR programs are small science and technology (S&T) programs at present, they are of high priority to the Army and that his program, robustly funded, has felt no pressure in the current austere funding environment.  "The science and technology effort is supported 100 percent. That's significant on its own. There is no other portfolio that is not feeling a significant cut."  He notes that DoD intends to spend $354 million on the JMR program between 2011-2019… and then the real money starts to kick in as FVL moves into advanced development and production.