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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Future is Joint for Military Rotorcraft

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

An intriguing insight into what might be the U.S. Army’s developing view of how it sees the proposed Joint Multi-Role (JMR) helicopter has come out of a presentation from Col. Doug Rombough, Program Executive Officer for rotary wing aviation for Special Operations Forces (PEO-RW). He gave the presentation at a recent Special Operations Forces industry conference, indicating that the current plethora of aircraft types across the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps could be eventually focused down into four individual types: light multi-role, medium multi-role, heavy multi-role and a category called ultra.

This drive towards a multi-role rotorcraft future across the U.S. forces, noted Col. Rombough in his presentation, was outlined in a directive from then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) to: “lead the development of an assessment that will outline a joint approach to the future development of vertical lift aircraft for all the military services.” The Future Vertical Lift (FVL) steering group was to provide guidance and oversight to the assessment team.

Light multi-role would incorporate light attack/reconnaissance and ISR platforms such as the OH-58, UH-72, Fire Scout, MH/AH-6 and MH-65. Medium multi-role would stretch from UH-60 Black Hawks (and versions), V-22s, through to AH-1 and AH-64 helicopters. Heavy multi-role would obviously include the CH-47s and CH-53s versions, while Ultra would represent a cargo ultra lift capability (which, according to Col. Rombough, is currently being examined through the USAF Aeronautical Systems Center Capabilities Integration Directorate, or ASC/XR).

A platform assessment of current aircraft, even those considered new additions today such as the AH-64D Block III Apache, the UH-60M Black Hawk and the CH-47F among others would all begin to come to the estimated end of their useful service lives between FY29 and FY34. The new report calls for new start technology development to begin as early as FY17-FY20. And as everyone in the defense acquisition industry knows, that ain’t long!

Col. Doug Rombough’s full declassified presentation can be located on the web at: http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2011SOFIC/Wed1015Rms22-23RomboughVerticalLift.pdf

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