AVX Aircraft, a small Texas company staffed largely by former Bell engineers, has won a U.S. Army contract to study a potential replacement for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter.

AVX joins Bell Boeing, Boeing and Sikorsky in conducting 18-month configuration analysis and trade studies for the Joint Multi Role (JMR) program, which aims to fly two competing rotorcraft demonstrators in 2017.

No further awards are anticipated, says the Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, which is managing the JMR technology demonstration program.

Under its contract, the Forth Worth-based company will identify technologies and develop concepts for both a demonstrator and an objective medium-utility rotorcraft that could enter service in the 2025-30 time frame.

AVX’s design will feature a coaxial rotor and ducted fans for propulsion and control — a similar configuration to that being proposed by the company to upgrade the Army’s Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior to meet its Armed Aerial Scout requirement.

Bell Boeing is studying a tiltrotor, Boeing is looking at a range of configurations and Sikorsky is evaluating an advanced helicopter, tiltrotor and a compound helicopter using its X2 high-speed coaxial-rotor configuration.

The study contracts are each worth around $4 million, with the major manufacturers matching the government funding for a total of $8 million. “We will be close to that,” with funds from the company and nine industry partners, says Ian Brown, AVX director of program management.

AVX also is talking to industry partners and private investors about funding a demonstrator for the OH-58D upgrade. This would take a commercial Bell 206L and fit it with coaxial rotors, ducted fans and new transmissions.

The demonstrator could be flying within 18 months of go-ahead, Brown says, and would be flown for about a year to validate the configuration being offered to the Army. A 206-based design also could find application in the commercial market, he says.