U.S. Army aviation officials have selected the two firms that will move forward into the next phase of the service's effort to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA).
Program Executive Office Aviation recently awarded competitive agreements to Bell Textron Inc. and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. to continue into the Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction (CD&RR) phase of the program under the Army's Future Vertical Lift (FVL) effort, according to a recent news release from PEO Aviation.
Bell Textron's V-280 Valor tilt-rotor helicopter prototype and the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 coaxial-rotor Defiant helicopter prototype were developed under the Army's Joint Multi Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) effort.
"These agreements are an important milestone for FLRAA," Patrick Mason, PEO Aviation, said in the release. "We will be conducting analysis to refine the requirements, conceptual designs, and acquisition approach."
The CD&RR effort is scheduled to last until 2022, the year the Army plans to select one vendor to eventually produce FLRAA. The service has set a goal of fiscal 2030 to have the first unit equipped with an aircraft that is capable of flying at speeds of more than 200 knots, or 230 miles per hour, and offer increased range over the current Black Hawk for future air assault and medical transport missions.
By comparison, Black Hawks, equipped for combat, fly at an average speed of 140 knots.
The V-280, which completed its first test flight in March 2019, has since demonstrated "its speed by flying above 300 knots," or 345 mph, according to a statement released Monday evening by Bell Textron.
Sikorsky-Boeing officials conducted a Feb. 20 flight demo for Army leaders, demonstrating the maneuverability of its X2 rotor technology.
"We are confident we will deliver a producible FLRAA aircraft that is survivable, affordable, sustainable and provides Army aviators strategic day one battlefield advantages," Sikorsky Boeing officials said in a statement Monday evening.
The Army's FVL also includes an effort to develop the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). Officials are expected to down-select to two vendors to build the final prototypes for FARA this month.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.