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Friday, February 1, 2013

Sikorsky, Boeing Partner Again on JMR/Future Vertical Lift

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

Sikorsky and Boeing will once again team over a military rotorcraft project, this time the venture is the U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate’s (AATD) requirement for a Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstrator (TD), the forerunner to the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) requirement in the 2030s.

Signed on January 13, the agreement means that the companies will submit a joint proposal to the AATD for the JMR TD Phase 1. A contract would follow in autumn for a platform demonstrator that would be used to evaluate next generation technology.

There has been no statement whether the JMR would be based on any current helicopter manufactured by either Sikorsky or Boeing, although a Boeing representative said the expectation was that further details regarding the project would be revealed before the March 2013 deadline.

Phase 2 would begin in 2015 and that would take the project forward through the inclusion of the mission equipment package. Should the Sikorsky Boeing team then be successful, the hope is that they would then be jointly responsible for the production of the FVL (medium) aircraft, which would replace the current Sikorsky Black Hawk and Boeing Apache fleets within Army Aviation (around 4,000 helicopters).

The two rotorcraft primes have teamed before, most notably on the ill-fated RAH-66 Comanche. Two RAH-66 prototypes were built and conducted flight testing from 1996 to 2004. Widely acknowledged as having made important steps forward during its development, despite the aircraft’s eventual cancellation due to considerable cost overruns, it is feasible that both companies feel that aspects of their previous joint development project could be useful to the JMR. Both Sikorsky with its S-97 Raider development based on the X2 and Boeing with its advanced Apache E have cutting-edge technologies to bring to the party. This makes teaming in this economically challenging environment a logical step for both companies.

Chris Chadwick’s released statement on the announcement alluded to the shared history: “Our teaming agreement is the continuation of a long-standing relationship between Boeing and Sikorsky and reflects a common vision for the future of Army aviation.” He continued: “Our combined technical strengths and our collective program management expertise make this partnership an exciting development in meeting the Army’s JMR program objectives.”

Finally, the statement hinted that there could be more than one demonstrator aircraft developed for the 2017 deadline.

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